Coffee Bar wrongly accused of breaching Covid rules

The coffee bar in North Shields. Credit: ITV News

The owners of a North Shields coffee bar have told ITV News they were left "upset and embarrassed" after wrongly being told they were breaking Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Aaron Duff, the owner of the Wheel House Coffee Bar, said two police officers attended the site on Sunday just before lunchtime. He said the officers asked if they understood the restrictions and that they were in breach because they were selling takeaway food and drink from the door of the shop.

The government rules actually state that food and drink takeaways can be sold from the premises between 5am and 10pm as long as it is consumed away from the outlet.

Northumbria Police admitted the officers had "issued the incorrect advice to the owner, which was quickly corrected".

Watch @krisjepson's report here: 

Aaron Duff told ITV News there was a large socially distanced queue outside his coffee bar on Sunday.

He claimed the options available to him were to either serve the public at their cars or run a click and collect service. Situated on the busy Tanners Bank, he said neither option was viable and he was forced to close the shop.

During lockdown he has had to adapt the way he runs the shop and said closing for a whole afternoon is financially crippling to his business.

They suggested that we should be acting under a sort of a click and collect service, which was impossible, or we should serve people from their cars, so we had to close unfortunately on one of the busiest days of the week.

Aaron Duff, The Wheel House

It was pretty horrific for two police officers to turn up at the door and basically tell us that we are effectively breaking the law, in front of our customers was upsetting and embarrassing to some degree you know.

Aaron Duff, The Wheel House

The coffee hop was told it was in breach of lockdown restrictions. Credit: ITV News

The trade association, UK Hospitality, told ITV News it has heard anecdotally of a number of alleged incidents over the weekend, which left businesses in a similar situation to The Wheel House. 

During a desperate time for small businesses, they said the authorities should know the Covid restrictions if they are enforcing them.

We’ve had that time and time again in cases that we’ve helped over this weekend, the police, the environmental health officers are not enforcing the rules in the right way. They simply don’t know what the new regulations say and this is having a severe impact, not just on business productivity and viability, but on the mental health and wellbeing of hospitality staff and business owners.

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality

The coffee bar has adapted to the current situation Credit: ITV News

Mr Duff acknowledged the police officers had been acting in "good faith" and that they thought they were adhering to the correct rules, but he argued that the rules should have more clarity.

Northumbria Police admitted a mistake had been made.

Yesterday (Sunday) our Covid-19 taskforce visited a premises on Tanners’ Bank, North Shields, as part of our ongoing patrols. Unfortunately, officers issued incorrect advice to the owner, which was quickly corrected. At no point was any enforcement action taken. We have apologised to the business involved.

Northumbria Police