Enforcement action has been taken against three South Tyneside pubs after they failed to ensure a Covid-secure environment for the protection of staff and customers.
South Tyneside Council has served directions to close Dougie's Tavern in Blackett Street, Hebburn, Hebburn Sports and Social Club and The Bridge in Wenlock Road, South Shields.
It comes after Environmental Health officers made several spot checks to the premises over recent weeks, where the pubs' management were reminded of the rules around social distancing, received guidance on how to improve and effectively manage Covid security and updates on legislation.
Dougie's Tavern was also given specific advice regarding parties and wakes, in line with new rules effective from 14 September. However, in response to a complaint, officers made a further visit on Friday (18 September), where they observed a wake at the venue, despite earlier reassurances from the pub that no such bookings had been made. Guest numbers exceeded the permitted maximum limit and data gathering arrangements for test and trace were found to be ineffective.
Hebburn Sports and Social Club had previously been issued with a letter identifying it as a 'premises of concern' and was being closely monitored when officers visiting on Saturday (19 September) witnessed the venue still open and mostly full at the required 10pm closing time, with little evidence of social distancing rules being effectively managed.
During a further spot check at The Bridge on Saturday (19 September), officers observed contraventions of the social distancing guidance.
All three pubs are now required to close for seven days, from 7pm on Wednesday 23 September.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said: "Most pubs, bars and restaurants are operating safely. They are working extremely hard to keep trading while looking after their staff and customers and helping to limit the spread of the virus.
"Visits were made to around 170 hospitality premises over the weekend, with officers finding high levels of compliance and most businesses successfully adapted to meet the new restrictions. We greatly appreciate this and thank those premises for their co-operation and continued efforts to keep people safe.
"Unfortunately, there are some exceptions with a small minority continually putting the health and safety of our residents at risk. This is despite significant efforts being made by Council officers to support and guide businesses to ensure that they could reopen safely and continue to operate in line with the Covid-secure measures in place.
"In cases where venues have repeatedly flouted the regulations, we have been left with no other option but to take action. It is in every business's interests to do all they can to follow the rules and keep people safe."
The owners of the three pubs will now be required to make sure appropriate measures are in place to protect staff and customers before they can be re-opened as safely as possible.
The directions to close are the latest in a series of enforcement actions taken by the Council under new powers given to local authorities. They help councils respond to a serious or imminent threat to public health and to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. They include the power for councils to restrict access to, or close, individual premises.
Last week, The Albion Gin & Ale House in Jarrow became the first venue in the Borough to be served a direction to close. Council officers continue to work closely with the venue regarding next steps.
From Friday 18 September, South Tyneside became one of seven areas across the North East to be made the subject of new local restrictions, aimed at helping to curb the spread of coronavirus and preventing a full local lockdown in future.
The new measures aim to help address a significant rise in infection rates across the region and have implications for socialising and gatherings, mainly relating to the hospitality sector and restrictions on households mixing.
The spokesperson added: "Cases are on the rise across the community, which is why we cannot afford to be complacent. Every single person is being called upon to halt the spread of the virus. We know this is a huge 'ask' and these are incredibly difficult and challenging times, but this is the best chance we have of reversing the surge in cases while keeping South Tyneside open for business.
"Please follow the new restrictions and maintain the guidance around Hands, Face and Space. Visitors who are concerned about a hospitality business not adhering to the rules is also urged to raise the issue with the venue's manager. Customers should leave if they don't feel safe."
All businesses must ensure they are following the government guidance that applies to their industry. For further information visit the Government website at www.gov.uk
For the latest updates from South Tyneside Council visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/coronavirus or follow our social media channels: Facebook STynesideCouncil and on Twitter @STyne_Council