Plymouth's Finla cafe owners ordered to pay more than £42k for 'despicable' Covid breaches

Credit: ITV News

A cafe in Plymouth has been ordered to pay more than £42,000 for "flagrant and despicable" breaches of Covid regulations.

Finla Coffee in Plympton continued to allow customers to eat and drink in and outside their shop during lockdown this past November. At the time, Covid regulations stated shops were only allowed to open for takeaways.

Directors of the cafe, Michael Pendlebury and Denna Yate, did not show up to Exeter Magistrates' Court for a hearing on Wednesday 7 July but Deputy District Judge Rod Hine warned they could face prison if they do not pay within 28 days.

He said by continuing to flout the rules last year, they had been a risk to public health in a despicable way, adding he did not accept any argument they did not have enough time to comply with the regulations.

The owners of Finla Coffee Ltd were fined several times for allowing customers to eat in during lockdown. Credit: ITV News

Finla Coffee and its two directors were fined £10,000 each. The three were also ordered to pay costs, with Finla ordered to pay £8,221 while both Yate and Pendlebury were ordered to pay £2,002 each.

The court heard Plymouth City Council had visited the cafe on 5 November 2020 to inform them of coronavirus regulations.

In the days following, environmental officers witnessed people still eating and drinking on the premises, and two fixed penalties were issued, which were not paid.

The cafe had also sent in documents to the council claiming that owing to the Magna Carta and an oath of allegiance to Barons, they were not subject to the law. Finla's directors also claimed the rules were a breach of their human rights.

A service manager for Plymouth City Council's public health team told the court they had spent at least 156 hours working on this case. She added her team of 12 had to divert resources to deal with it, which meant they had to work overtime to ensure the city's public health as a whole was not put at risk.