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Pub who claimed chilli eating contest exempt from lockdown facing ban

Pub landlord who claimed chilli eating contest was exempt from lockdown rules because its an ‘elite sport’ is hit with prohibition notice

  • Craig Harker, 33, landlord of The George Pub and Grill served prohibition notice
  • The pub in Stockton-on-Tees, Durham hosted a chilli eating contest on Nov 7
  • He insists no rules were broken because competitive eating is an ‘elite sport’  
  • The council made a U-turn on earlier decision that no action would be taken

A pub landlord who claimed a chilli eating contest was exempt from lockdown rules because its an ‘elite sport’ has been hit with a prohibition notice.

Craig Harker, 33, landlord of The George Pub and Grill in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, has been served with a prohibition notice following the British Eating League event in the earlier this month.

The socially distanced eating tournament was attended by a TV crew and five ‘athletes’ taking on the hottest chillies in the world.

The event was held in conjunction with the British Eating League but a complaint was lodged to Stockton Council after concerns it was in breach of lockdown rules.  

Pub landlord Craig Harker (pictured), 33, has been hit with a prohibition notice over a chilli eating contest that was held at The George Pub and Grill in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, on November 7

However Mr Harker, who runs the pub, said he adhered to the guidelines as he classes competitive eating as an elite sport.

He hit back at those that complained and insists no rules were broken. 

Government guidelines for lockdown state that restaurants and pubs must close but venues are permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities –  including for elite sportsmen and women to train and compete. 

Mr Harker didn’t sell any food or drink during the competition so therefore didn’t break any lockdown rules stating that pubs and restaurants aren’t allowed to sell products.  

Earlier this month, Stockton Council made inquiries into the event and concluded that no further action would be taken against the pub.

But this week, the council made U-turn on their earlier decision and the pub was served with a prohibition notice in relation to the November 7 event. 


The event was in conjunction with the British Eating League but a complaint was lodged to Stockton Council after concerns it was in breach of lockdown rules. Pictured: Two of the five ‘athletes’ who took on the hottest chillies in the world

It claims there were ‘reasonable grounds for believing’ Mr Harker is ‘contravening a requirement in the regulations and that it is necessary and proportionate to issue a prohibition notice to prevent continued contravention of that requirement.’

It means the pub can no longer serve food and drink on the premises.

Pub landlord Mr Harker has hit back at the council’s decision and said he will be appealing the notice. 

Mr Harker said: ‘Of course, I’ll be appealing the decision and fighting the case that competitive eating is a sport and an elite level as well.

‘It’s lockdown 2 and people are looking online for entertainment, the British Eating League provides that under a safe environment whilst sticking to Government guidelines.

‘I won’t turn and hide and be told how I can and can’t run my business.

‘We are a successful restaurant and take-away looking to expand across Teesside and then the rest of the UK, if anything the council is pushing us away from the area and our customers.

Pub landlord Mr Harker insists no rules were broken because competitive eating is an ‘elite sport’ and said he will be appealing the notice. Pictured: Chillies eaten in the competition

‘They should be praising us and begging us to stay in the town rather than fight us at every opportunity.’ 

Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, told TeessideLive: ‘Mr Harker held a competitive eating event in his venue which we believe to be a breach of national restrictions.

‘We have therefore served him with a Prohibition Notice.’

Prohibition notices can be served under new legislation introduced in March in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Local authorities and police have the power to close premises that are failing to observe the lockdown.

Under the new legislation, if a person fails to comply with a prohibition notice, they commit an offence. 

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Pub landlords set up marquees so people can meet 'outside'

In TENT on staying open! Landlords and restaurateurs set up marquees, shelters and TEEPEES in ingenious trick to side-step Covid rules and keep customers cosy while seated outside

  • Pubs in tier two under ‘high’ alert are not allowed to seat anyone from different households indoors
  • So they are turning to marquees which can be classed as outdoor seating as long as the ends are open
  • British Beer and Pub Association says many pubs have invested in outdoor areas during Covid-19 crisis
  • Rotherham marquee firm Gala Tent has had most successful period ever with growth up 50% year on year
  • * Has your local come up with an interesting way of sitting people outside? Please email: [email protected] *

With many parts of Britain now under local lockdowns preventing friends from different households meeting indoors, pubs across the country are having to come up with ingenious methods to get people to visit.

And these photographs show how venues are turning to marquees and teepees with heaters to follow Covid-19 rules and ensure those living in tier two areas such as London can still meet ‘outside’ in groups of up to six.

Pubs in tier two under ‘high’ alert are not allowed to seat anyone from different households indoors, so they are turning to marquees which can be classed as outdoor seating as long as the ends are opened up. 

The Government has urged pub landlords and restaurateurs to ensure social distancing is maintained within marquees, and that they are open on three or four sides to be considered as an ‘external environment’.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, told MailOnline today: ‘Many pubs have invested in their outdoor spaces to make them comfortable and welcoming for winter so do check out your local.’ 

And UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: ‘The restrictions, particularly for those businesses in tier two areas, means that they will have to think laterally in order to accommodate guests. 

‘A marquee is a great idea, provided the pub has the space. Utilising outdoor areas will be vital if pubs and bars are going to trade at anything approaching a healthy level. Some local authorities have relaxed rules to let businesses utilise outdoor space and we hope more will follow that lead.’ 

Among the pubs in England which have turned to outdoor marques and teepees are The Weeping Willow in Barrow, Suffolk; The Three Tuns in Guilden Morden, Cambridgeshire; and The Perch in Binsey, Oxfordshire. 

The 17th century Weeping Willow in Barrow, Suffolk, is among the pubs in England which has a covered outdoor seating area

Punters enjoy a drink under a marquee with outdoor heating at The Three Tuns in Guilden Morden, Cambridgeshire

Others with covered outdoor areas include The Red Lion in Hollington, Derbyshire; The Horse and Groom in Wivenhoe, Essex; The Rose Revived in Hadlow, Kent; and The Old Boot Inn in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire. 

Nik Antona, national chairman for the Campaign for Real Ale, told MailOnline today: ‘Beer gardens are an intrinsic part of British pub culture and the backbone of our summers.

‘This year, we’re in exceptional circumstances as more pubs have turned to putting up marquees and heating their outdoor areas to keep abreast of Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing measures.

‘While this will help some pubs in the lead up to winter, particularly on pleasant days, it’s not a long-term solution for our pubs to survive the winter, and many pubs have no outdoor space. Like it or not, the weather will turn, and our pub gardens will need to close at certain times.

‘That is why it is vital that the Government provides additional financial support for all hospitality businesses. Otherwise, we’re likely to see many pubs close their doors forever by Christmas.’

The demand for marquees has also meant good business for manufactures, with one firm Gala Tent reporting 50 per cent year-on-year growth and £1million-plus revenue for two months in a row the first time its 21-year history. 

The company, which makes tents for the NHS, police and the military, had a 60,000 sq ft warehouse packed with summer stock during lockdown but demand soon soared as the hospitality sector reopened in July. 

The Perch is a thatched 17th century country inn located in Binsey, Oxfordshire, which has put up a marquee in its garden

The Red Lion in the Derbyshire village of Hollington has put up a marquee which allows punters to meet up inside or out

Gala Tent posted a 33 per cent growth year-on-year for July, then a 49 per cent increase for August, creating the most successful period in the history of the company based in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham.

* Has your local come up with an interesting way of sitting people outside? Please email: [email protected]

Chief executive Jason Mace said last month: ‘If you’re going to succeed as a company, you need to know that you can change direction at a minute’s notice and carry on regardless. The beauty of our products is their versatility. 

‘It’s a wedding marquee one year but now it’s a way of pubs expanding their premises to ensure their own revenues don’t drop, or for schools to protect their children in the social distancing era.’

It comes after industry estimates revealed this week that pubs, bars and restaurants spent £900million on screens, masks and hand sanitiser to make their venues safe for reopening.

Bosses have spoken of their fury at spending the cash only to be forced to shell out again to adapt to an ‘ever-changing raft of ill-thought-out regulations’.

Each pub has spent more than £10,000 adapting the interiors of their venues, according to research, but many can now only entertain customers outside.

Tens of thousands of venues across the North of England have been plunged back into drastic restrictions, which industry leaders said are having a ‘devastating impact’ and will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

The Horse and Groom in Wivenhoe, Essex, is among the pubs which has used the services of Rotherham-based Gala Tent

The Rose Revived in Hadlow, Kent, has put up a marquee for dining within its extensive land and gardens in the countryside

Last Saturday, South Yorkshire joined Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool at the highest tier three level of restrictions, forcing many venues to shut.

Household mixing has already been banned in tier two areas such as London and the North East, and Wales has shut all its hospitality businesses as part of a two-week ‘fire-break’ lockdown.

Amid growing anger, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was forced to extend the winter jobs scheme on Thursday, but fears remain for the future of thousands of businesses. 

Official data suggests close to four in ten restaurants, pubs, hotels are at risk of going bust, and the majority are now loss-making. 

But, even as restrictions were introduced for hospitality, Public Health England data showed that just 3.3 per cent of new infections were linked to the sector.

Tier three measures will force up to 5,000 pubs to shut in the North unless they serve ‘substantial’ meals, according to property adviser Altus Group.  

The Old Boot Inn in the historic Berkshire village of Stanford Dingley has put up a giant structure for people to sit outdoors

The teepee structure at the Old Boot Inn in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, will allow people to eat or drink outdoors

Tier two measures have affected 11,798 pubs, nearly a third of all English pubs, and 12,400 of the 27,000 of the country’s restaurants.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 41,000 jobs have been lost from large companies in the hospitality sector.

Last week the boss of Marston’s pub chain blamed lockdown measures for the loss of 2,100 jobs at its 1,700 venues, saying they were the ‘inevitable consequence of the limitations placed upon our business’.

It is spending £2million to add heated outdoor seating areas to its pubs. Wetherspoons has spent £13.1million on getting its 875 pubs ready. 

Its founder, Tim Martin, said the company is now being hit by ‘an ever-changing raft of ill-thought-out regulations’. It has announced up to 480 job cuts because of the pandemic.

* Has your local come up with an interesting way of sitting people outside? Please email: [email protected]

Tier-ing us apart: Guide to England’s Covid restrictions

A seventh of England’s population will be in the highest level of restrictions by the end of the week as Warrington and Nottingham enter Tier 3.

More than eight million people will be living under the toughest coronavirus measures as winter looms, but what does it mean and what can you do?

Here’s what you need to know about the tier system:

– Who is in Tier 3 at the moment?

The UK Government confirmed on Monday that Warrington will be relegated to Tier 3 on Tuesday, with Nottingham and the boroughs of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe set to join it on Thursday.

They join Greater Manchester, which was forced into top tier restrictions at midnight on Saturday despite the best efforts of Mayor Andy Burnham for extra support for the city.

Large areas of South Yorkshire including Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield were also placed into Tier 3 at the same time, after the region secured a £41 million funding package.

Liverpool City Region has been languishing in Tier 3 since October 14, and was joined by Lancashire two days later.

– What does Tier 3 mean exactly?

Expect extreme curbs to your social life – social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant.

The rule of six applies in some outdoor settings such as parks, public gardens and sports courts.

Deliberately flouting the rules can net you a fine of up to £6,400, while those who organise gatherings of more than 30 people can be fined up to £10,000.

Local leaders help the Government to determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos.

Shops and places of worship can remain open, as can schools and colleges, while universities must reflect wider restrictions with the option to move to greater online provision.

Up to 15 guests are allowed at weddings and 30 people can attend funerals, with 15 allowed at wakes, but wedding receptions are not permitted.

People living in Tier 3 areas are advised against overnight stays in other parts of the UK and should avoid travel where possible in and out of the area, unless it is for work, education or caring responsibilities.

Number 10 confirmed that, under Tier 2 and 3 rules on household mixing, people can still meet up for work meetings indoors under certain circumstances.

– What happens in Tier 2?

London, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley, West Midlands, and Leicestershire are among the regions currently in Tier 2.

Areas categorised as high risk have restrictions on household mixing indoors, while the rule of six continues to apply outdoors.

People must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.

Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship can remain open, with overnight stays permitted.

Up to 15 guests are allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes.

Travel advice for those living in Tier 2 areas is to reduce the number of journeys they take where possible and avoid travel into very high Tier 3 areas.

– What restrictions are placed on areas in Tier 1?

Areas classed as medium risk, those in Tier 1, are subject to the same national measures which were commonplace across England earlier this year.

These include the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.

Like Tier 2, up to 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes.

Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship will remain open, with overnight stays permitted and no travel restrictions within the area, although people are advised to avoid travel into Tier 3 areas where possible.

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Lifestyle

FEMAIL puts the 'pub desk' to the test

Could the local become YOUR office? Femail writer tests out new £10 pub package with free WIFI, unlimited hot drinks and lunch as hospitality industry desperately tries to diversify

  • Jacqueline Steele spent a day working at The Crown & Horns, in East Illsley
  • Pub charges £10 for a table with plug socket, wifi, unlimited tea and a sandwich 
  • Hospitality industry hopes concept will encourage visitors in the Covid-19 age 

Working from home may have become the new normal, but it can be quite isolating and, frankly, boring, without the usual interactions of an office environment.

Now the hospitality industry is introducing a new concept to get people through the door in the Covid-19 age – the ‘pub desk’.

The Crown & Horns, in East Illsley, is one of dozens of venues across the country testing out this new concept to get punters through the door.

For landlords, it offers the chance to begin to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic and more recently with the new 10pm curfew in England.

For £10 you get a table next to a plug socket, wifi, unlimited tea and coffee and a sandwich.

Here, writer Jacqueline Steele reveals what it’s like to relocate from her home office to the local pub for the day.

Jacqueline Steele tested the ‘pub desk’ concept on offer at The Crown & Horns, in East Illsley. Pictured left: Jacqueline, Pictured right: Kadi Pariis, the director and practice manager of Gecko Fitness

The four walls of my home study have become very familiar over the past few months. And now the kids are back at school, the house is extremely quiet. The perfect working environment you might think, but sometimes you need a change of scenery.

So armed with my laptop, phone and a notepad, I headed to my local pub in West Berkshire at midday on a Monday to try out a ‘pub desk’.

Sat in a quiet corner of the country inn, I plugged my Mac into the mains and easily accessed the powerful wifi. There’s also tables available in the attractive beer garden complete with palms, lights and colourful furniture in a heated marquee.

It made a pleasant change to have coffee brought to my desk by friendly bar supervisor Claire Mumford, who wore a mask. Staff were very attentive, keeping my coffee cup full while I typed away.

Claire, who’s been working at the Crown on-and-off for more than 30 years, said it’s been a tough year for the industry, particularly village pubs.

‘It’s been a really hard year for everyone. But we’ve got to think out of the box and come up with innovative ideas to get people back to the pub.

‘It must be really difficult for families trying to work from home with all the distractions. Offering the ‘pub desk’ separates work and home again. It gives people a break. People have said that the creative juices start to flow again.

Crown employee Claire, revealed the ‘pub desk’ concept has been working well because around 60 per cent of people in the area haven’t returned to the office. Pictured: Jacqueline 

‘I’d say in East Ilsley and surrounding villages about 60 per cent of people are still working from home so for us this works really well.

‘And then at the end of the day, you can put your laptop away and maybe get a glass of wine.’

For those who need a quiet space for conference calls or face-to-face meetings, the spacious pub offers areas which can be partitioned-off for privacy.

Sat on the other side of a glass divider from me was Kadi Pariis, the director and practice manager of Gecko Fitness, in Yattendon, who popped out for an hour or two to get some work done.

Sipping a flat white, and between taking work calls, Kadi said: ‘I think a lot of people are getting tired of working from home, so getting out offers a change of scenery and it allows me to get away from day-to-day jobs around the house that I rarely switch off from.

Kadi (pictured) who is a working mum, said what she would achieve from a full day at home is achievable within two to three hours out of the house 

‘As a busy working mum I always have several things on the go in and around the home and being out of that environment enables me to focus better.

‘I often feel that in two to three hours out of the house I achieve what I’d normally achieve in a full day at home.’

A Facebook post advertising the idea reads: ‘Fed up of working from home and would like a change of scenery? We are offering you a ‘pub desk’. Available indoors or outdoors in our lovely beer garden in the heated marquee.

‘A table to yourself, reserved for two hours, near a plug socket, with free wifi, unlimited tea and coffee and a lunchtime ciabatta, all for just £10.’

Villagers are loving the concept. On the local Facebook page one person wrote: ‘We could finally go for that pub lunch we always talk about, but I can never get away from my laptop for long enough.’

Jacqueline (pictured) said the ‘pub desk’ felt relaxed, safe and she managed to get a lot of work done, while also enjoying a yummy lunch 

Another wrote: ‘I tried this today and it was great. Table to myself, good wifi signal, unlimited drinks and a tasty lunch. Would definitely recommend to anyone who needs a change of scenery.’

I thoroughly enjoyed a beetroot hummus and crispy chickpea ciabatta for lunch, served with chunky chips and a side salad – the perfect fuel for an afternoon of writing, and even tastier that I hadn’t made it myself.

Monday lunchtime was fairly quiet – but there was still a steady stream of customers. And even though the pub-desk has only just been advertised, bookings are filling up fast for this week and next.

I will definitely be back for the office-in-a-pub experience. It felt relaxed, safe and I managed to get lots of work done, while sipping on unlimited coffee and enjoying a yummy lunch. A bargain for a tenner.

I felt more motivated to work away from the distractions of the house – the dishwasher that needed emptying, the washing that needed to be put away and the dog begging for another walk.

Andy Nash who is the Operations Manager for Punch Pubs & Co, said the latest restrictions have been a challenge 

Andy Nash, Operations Manager for Punch Pubs & Co, which own the Crown, said the last seven months ‘have been a rollercoaster’.

‘From the shock of lockdown through to a safe reopening, the success of Eat Out To Help Out and now having to adapt further to work under new restrictions to ensure our customers can still come and safely enjoy their time with us.

‘The latest restrictions are a challenge. We have always provided great table service but the wearing of masks has taken some getting used to and calling last orders and having the pub empty of guests by 10pm is really tough.

‘We felt local residents would have had enough of working at home, possibly with other home workers and fancy a much-needed change of scenery.

‘We offer great coffee, a light lunch, great customer service, two hours reserved table inside or outside, with wifi and near a plug. What else could you need?’

Other pubs in the Berkshire area are following suit, including The Anton Arms, in Andover and The Rowbardge, in Reading. 

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Greene King pub closures: Is there a list of the pubs shutting down?

GREENE King has called last orders on 26 of its sites while a further 53will temporarily close with their future remaining in the balance.

The move, which was announced earlier this week, puts around 800 staff across the 79 sites at risk of being made redundant, although it's hoped some of these workers will be redeployed.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Below we explain what's happening to your local Greene King.

How many branches does Greene King have?

Firstly, it's important to note that Greene King is a group of different pub and restaurant brands, and Greene King pubs is just one of these brands.

Other outlets under the group include Chef & Brewer, Farmhouse Inns, Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne, Metropolitan Pub Company, and Wacky Warehouse.

In total, the Greene King group, which was founded in 1799, has more than 1,700 pubs and restaurants across the UK and it employs 38,000 workers.

Which Greene King branches are closing?

So far, Greene King has only revealed that 11 Loch Fyne restaurants are among the 26 sites closing for good.

It has also confirmed that other brands affected by the closures will be Greene King and Hungry Horse.

What are my redundancy rights?

BEFORE making you unemployed, your employer should still carry out a fair redundancy process.

You are entitled to be consulted on the redundancy lay-off first and to receive a statutory redundancy payment, as long as you've been working somewhere for at least two years.

How much you're entitled to depends on your age and length of service, although this is capped at 20 years. You'll get:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22,
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41,
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.

Sadly, you won't be entitled to a payout if you've been working for your employer for fewer than two years.

There should be a period of collective consultation as well as time for individual ones if your employer wants to make 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days or each other.

You are also entitled to appeal the decision by claiming unfair dismissal within three months of being let go.

We've asked for a full list of both permanent and temporary closures but Greene King says it won't be able to provide this until consultations with affected staff are concluded.

It's unclear how long this might take as statutory redundancy notice periods vary depending on how long you've worked for your employer.

Why is Greene King closing pubs?

Greene King blames the closures on a slide in profits after a 10pm curfew was imposed on the entertainment industry in England from September 24.

The government crackdown is designed to curb the spread of coronavirus as cases continue to soar.

But it's feared further job losses may be on the cards as just this week Nicola Sturgeon announced a 16 day "circuit-breaker" lockdown. 

Under these new rules, pubs and restaurants in Scotland have been ordered to stop serving alcohol inside between 6pm on Friday October 9 to Sunday October 25.

Meanwhile, venues inside Scotland's so-called "central belt", covering around 3.4million people in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow, will be ordered to shut their doors completely.

Pubs in England were forced to close their doors back in March as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

They were only allowed to reopen again from July 4 in England – as long as they followed coronavirus safety measures. Reopenings in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales varied as coronavirus is a devolved issue.

At the time, Greene King showed The Sun around its new look bars, which can only operate at 60% capacity due to social distancing.

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