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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

First Bristol business issued with a direction to cease services and fined £1,000 after failing to comply with COVID-19 measures

An event venue in Bristol has today (Friday 23 October) been issued with a direction from Bristol City Council, which prohibits the business from hosting ‘club style’ events, after it was found to be breaching coronavirus (COVID-19) rules.

The Jack of Diamonds on West Street in Old Market is the first business in the city to receive a direction from the council. After multiple inspections were carried out by the council and Avon & Somerset Police, the venue was found to be non-compliant with public health measures and the owner was given a £1,000 fixed penalty notice by the police.

Earlier this year, the government granted Local Authorities new powers to respond to a ‘serious and imminent threat to public health’ which includes restricting access to, or closing premises which are failing to comply with COVID-secure measures.

Inspections found that the Jack of Diamonds did not have a COVID-secure risk assessment or a Track and Trace system in place. Social distancing and face covering guidelines were not being adhered to and the premise was remaining open past the current government curfew for settings of its type. Evidence was also found of alcohol being consumed and available for sale in the unlicensed premise.

Officers observed poor management practice and after consulting with the council, a decision was made to issue a direction to the premise, which from midday today, means the venue is prohibited from holding any ‘club style’ events. This includes the provision of a DJ, live music and the sale of alcohol.

Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services at Bristol City Council, said: “We understand that it is a very challenging time for businesses which have had their livelihoods disrupted and had to adapt to the new ways of working in the face of COVID-19.

“Across the city of Bristol, the COVID-19 infection rate has been significantly increasing and now sits at 241.7 new cases per 100,000 population (in the past seven days, as of 22 October). We are seeing a high proportion of cases in the under 40 age group, but the risk is also growing across older age groups too.

“We have provided clear advice to local businesses across the city to support them in developing COVID-secure operations. This behaviour is jeopardising other businesses that are complying with the rules and playing their part in keeping Bristol open safely. The direction to cease services is necessary at this point in time to prevent people attending the premise, as we are clear that their operations are putting people at risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“The direction will remain in place until 22 January (2021) unless the premise is able to open as a COVID-secure business that complies with all the restrictions.  We will regularly review the situation.”

Inspector Rob Cheeseman said: “The coronavirus legislation is in place to save lives and stop the spread of this dangerous virus. Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public and explain the restrictions in place, encourage them to comply and enforce whenever necessary.

“As we head into what could be a very difficult winter, we’ll be moving more swiftly to enforcement because we cannot allow blatant and flagrant breaches of the restrictions to take place and jeopardise the selfless efforts our communities have put in over the past seven months.

“Officers attended the Jack of Diamonds in the early hours of Sunday 18 October to find a party taking place, attended by in excess of 80 people. This is a prime example of a thoughtless and harmful breach of the restrictions which we cannot allow to take place. In addition to the direction to cease services, the owner has been given a £1,000 fixed penalty notice for the bar being open past the 10pm curfew.

“We’ll continue to work with all our partner agencies to keep the public safe and make sure the restrictions in place to protect us all are adhered to.

“Anyone thinking of attending any venue should remind themselves of the regulations, particularly those relating to gatherings of more than six and face coverings, and know they could themselves be fined £200 if they fail to abide by the law.”

Find out more about the guidance and support available for businesses amid COVID-19 here.

Find out more about Local Authority powers to impose restrictions here.