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Pubs on the pavement: Government plans ‘are a recipe for chaos’

Islington publicans blast ‘hare-brained’ proposals as many local boozers prepare to reopen after three-month lockdown

03 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Ade Clarke, who runs The Lamb pub in Holloway Road, says reopening this weekend ‘would be putting our staff and our regulars at risk’

THE government’s plan to convert bars into off-licences and fast-track permits to extend tables and chairs onto pavements is a “hare-brained” idea that will cause “chaos” in the streets, publicans and councillors have warned.

Emergency legislation is being rushed through the House of Commons that will automatically allow pubs to serve takeaway pints and give landlords easy access to Temporary Pavement Licences amid the coronavirus crisis.

But the laws, due to come into force on July 20, have been condemned by the chairman of Islington’s licensing committee.

“Once again government have shown a disregard for local councils,” said Councillor Phil Graham.

“Instead, they’re pulling the rug from underneath the licensing authorities by failing to provide any sort of guidance we can give to make sure residents are kept safe.”

The Tollington Arms in Hornsey Road

He added: “There are good pubs and bad pubs, but we are fully expecting a lot of non-compliance. We have already had issues with some pubs running as off-licences with customers loitering in the streets and even relieving themselves in nearby paths.”

The bill, which has already passed its first reading in the House of Commons, will put a cap on application fees, restrict the council’s powers to revoke licences and place a 14-day limit for determining applications.

Martin Whelan, who runs the Tollington Arms in Hornsey Road, said: “The hospitality sector will have enough issues trying to come to terms with, trying to reopen their respective businesses without having to marshal external areas of public footpaths.

“It’s one of the most hare-brained schemes I’ve ever seen being suggested by government in 40 years in the bar game.”

Last week the Tribune reported that The Gunners pub and the Tollington Arms owners were not going to open – putting their punters’ health before the potential to “earn a quick Covid buck”.

A nurse contacted Tollington Arms to “express his thanks and appreciation” for their decision after reading the article and went on to say he was “appalled” by the government’s advice and the sight of packed beaches in Bournemouth last week “dismayed” him.

Many pubs, however, are planning to reopen on Saturday for the first time after a three-month lockdown. Bars have drawn up plans like one-way queuing systems and limiting customer numbers in a bid to meet government guidelines.

Mr Whelan said: “Another cock-eyed set of rules in the guidance states sports fans must refrain from singing and chanting in enclosed areas to minimise the spread of the virus. Picture this, Arsenal play Spurs on the 12th, Aubameyang scores, pub erupts in joyous celebration, then the tenant has to kick everyone out. It’s laughable.”

More pubs have come forward this week saying they will also keep their doors shut on Saturday.

Ade Clarke, who runs The Lamb pub in Holloway Road, said: “Me and my manager decided we’re not going to do it, we’re not going to open. It would be putting our staff and our regulars at risk. It’s not worth it.”

The Arkstar, further up Holloway Road, released a statement saying they will not be “in the first tranche” of pubs opening.

“I’m sure that this is as disappointing to you as it is to us, but I trust that you will understand the need for our natural optimism to have a goodly dose of caution during these strangest of days,” they added.

Cllr Graham, who has had to shield during the lockdown due to health issues, said: “It is madness to open on a Saturday. Pubs will be inundated. It is going to be chaos.”

A “local lockdown” was introduced in Leicester this week after a spike in coronavirus cases and a list of other local authorities where similar measures could be brought in included two of Islington’s neighbours, Haringey and Westminster.

Cllr Graham added: “It’s a false economy. A second spike will be devastating.”

The police have increased patrols for the weekend, but Superintendent Neil Holyoak, who is leading the Met’s response to Covid-19 in Islington, has played down fears that there could be a spike in anti-social behaviour.

He told the Tribune: “There is no reason for us as local police to think that on Saturday people will go mad and cause trouble, which is why our policing plan is proportionate to that.

“For a normal Arsenal home game, something like Burnley or Brighton, there will be about 50 officers on duty and taken away from their day job. This weekend we’re talking about 15 or so extra officers.”

Council officers are set to carry out patrols seven days a week to monitor businesses’ social distancing measures.

The Town Hall’s jobs chief, Cllr Asima Shaikh, said: “Islington’s vibrant and diverse shops and businesses are vital to our community and our economy, and it’s vital as they reopen they can do so safely.

“Our officers are working every day to reach out to businesses of all kinds and give them the help, support and guidance they need – we will have extra support and help available from this Saturday, as more businesses reopen.”

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