A further nine warning letters and five Immediate Prohibition Notices have been issued today (April 21) to isle businesses that have remained open in breach of new requirements to close during the coronavirus pandemic.
One venue has breached its Prohibition Notice and further legal action is being considered. Venues cannot be named while investigations are ongoing.
At the end of March, a total of 14 warning letters and three Immediate Prohibition Notices were issued. Today’s number brings the total number of businesses under investigation for being in breach to 28.
The National Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 make it an offence for many types of businesses including pubs, clubs and bars to stay open in the current pandemic. It also allows authorities to take tough action against any premises in breach of the rules.
Grants are available for many affected businesses and almost £22m of Government funding has already been awarded locally.
However, small businesses which occupy serviced office space have slipped through the cracks and are not eligible. A loophole means those who occupy serviced office space where rates are included (bundled into the serviced package) will not qualify for the support. Self-employed business owners who do not pay rates have to wait until June for government funding.
The majority of businesses in Thanet are adhering to the rules and have been closed.
The businesses are contacted by the council’s Public Protection and Licensing Team and initially a warning letter is issued, then further investigations are carried out. Where a premises is found to have contravened the legislation or continues to do so, an Immediate Prohibition Notice is served.
Thanet District Council Deputy Leader Helen Whitehead, said: ”With the announcement of a further three weeks of the current restrictions I cannot stress enough how important it is that we continue to observe the rules. I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the businesses that have supported these measures and closed accordingly.
“The fact that five more businesses have had to be served with Prohibition Notices is a huge disappointment. We have a collective responsibility to protect each other during this pandemic by staying at home. Businesses which stay open and therefore encourage others to risk their health and the health of others will be forced to close.
“We know this is a worrying time for many business owners and want to remind them that there are grants available for small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. We have already started transferring money to those who’ve contacted us and would urge all eligible businesses not to delay their application. We’re here to help, and if you are unsure of what your business may be entitled to please contact us and we will do all we can to help and advise.
”I’d also like to thank those members of the public who have contacted us to let us know of businesses they have observed breaching the regulations. We have a collective duty to keep the most vulnerable amongst us safe, and ensuring that we follow guidelines is the best way to do that.
“I could not be more grateful to businesses and individuals who are following the guidance to stay home and save lives; to those who are finding themselves struggling to do so, please, think of the most vulnerable individual you know and consider their need for protection before anything else.
“A huge well done to everyone who is following guidelines and keeping our community safe during these difficult times. I know how hard it is, and I applaud you for your efforts in making sure that we are all protected.”
Working with Kent Police, council officers continue to investigate allegations of businesses staying open.
Exceptions to the closure regulations include supermarkets, pharmacies and laundry facilities which can continue to trade as usual, with the appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Those who breach regulations could face an unlimited fine, a Fixed Penalty Notice or prosecution. Licensed premises flouting the closures will be referred to the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee where they could have their licence removed.
Breaches can be reported by phoning 101 or by emailing environmental.health@
If a breach is on a building site it can be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using this form.