Six local pubs and takeaways have been hit with £1,000 fines in Gravesend after they were caught serving customers after the 10pm COVID curfew.
Gravesham Council wrote to all businesses in the north Kent borough last month to remind them of their responsibilities under the new regulations, which mean pubs and restaurants must close by 10pm.
Takeaways are allowed to continue to delivering meals after that time, but walk-in customers must not be served, and in both cases customers should not be on the premise past the curfew.
Three takeaways and three pubs have been issued with fines, with the council saying they are “disappointed we have had to take action against local businesses.”
John Burden, the leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said: “When the Government introduced the 10pm curfew for hospitality premises I went public saying this council would adopt an educational and advisory approach, engaging with local businesses as they got used to the new rules and only moving to enforcement reluctantly and as a last resort.
“It saddens me to say that having written to all businesses in the Borough explaining the new rules, our enforcement teams subsequently collected evidence of a minority of hospitality venues continuing to serve walk-in customers after 10pm.
“In all, six businesses have received £1,000 fixed penalty notices.”
Whilst the UK is under national restrictions, the Government has made clear that once the November lockdown is over, England will be returning to the tiered method of Covid restrictions, meaning the likelihood of the 10pm curfew being reinstated.
Cllr Burden warned the businesses concerned if that is the case, fines increase rapidly for subsequent incidents. A second offence merits a £2,000 penalty, a third £4,000, and a fourth incurs a £10,000 fine.
“I am disappointed we have had to take this action against local businesses and I hope they now understand that we are serious about ensuring everyone is obeying the rules in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.
“We want to support our fantastic local businesses through these incredibly difficult times. We will be working hard to contact all those who qualify for financial support during this second lockdown, just as we did during the spring and summer.
“We will make sure they get that vital financial help as quickly and efficiently as possible to help keep them afloat.
“But while we will do everything we can to support those facing hardship as a result of obeying the rules, we will not tolerate those who think they can ignore them.
“While I sincerely hope we have no need to take any further action, our enforcement officers will be out throughout November ensuring the new lockdown regulations are being adhered to.
“It is vital we all play our part in bringing the infection rate back under control, which in turn will allow those businesses obliged to close their doors the chance of getting back to business at the earliest opportunity.
“We face a crucial few weeks in the fight to bring the COVID-19 infection rate under control.
“We must all hope that as we come out of this November lockdown we return to that tier to give our businesses the chance to reopen fully in the run-up to Christmas.”