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The Brenchley pub in Maidstone High Street hits back at accusation landlords faced a fine over poor social distancing in queues

A pub boss feels let down over suggestions his venue was 'at risk of a fine' from the council over poor social distancing in a queue.

The Brenchley, in Maidstone, re-opened its beer garden on Monday, which immediately proved popular.

Queues outside The Brenchley in Maidstone as pubs reopened on Monday
Queues outside The Brenchley in Maidstone as pubs reopened on Monday

Now Maidstone council has written a letter to the venue explaining its officials were frustrated at suggestions it was considering enforcement action and has no concerns about how the pub is being run.

A report in the Telegraph mentioned queues outside the Brenchley, going on to directly add: "the council said landlords faced a 'fixed penalty notice, prohibition notice, licence review or a combination for failing to enforce social distancing.'"

Another publication said the pub "allegedly failed to enforce social distancing outside".

Ade Rowswell, operations manager, said: "I can categorically state we have had no warnings or anything like that from the council or licensing."

He added a licensing officer from Kent Police had visited on Monday morning to look at the systems in place, before the reopening and no issues were raised.

The outside bar at The Brenchley in Maidstone
The outside bar at The Brenchley in Maidstone

Mr Rowswell said the venue had "bent over backwards" to meet all the government guidelines on pubs reopening.

This included closing off part of the outside area and a one-way system.

Speaking about coverage, Mr Rowswell said he felt: "A little bit let down and disappointed, especially as we have gone so far to do everything right."

In its letter to the pub, Maidstone council said it was asked about pictures of the queue and told reporters it had 'no issues at all as all seemed to be working well and social distancing rules were being adhered to."

They also said it had no plans to take any action, before providing general information about lockdown easing, which said early indications showed all businesses were complying with the rules.

It added: "We were extremely disappointed and frustrated it was reported in the way it was. We wanted to make contact and let you know we understand how difficult it has been for all businesses that have had to close and are supporting our pubs and retail outlets and working with them."

Mr Rowswell said of Monday: "Some visitors in the queue were kind of forgetting to act responsibly and not sticking to social distancing" which he said was "down to excitement".

As well as speaking to pubgoers, the next day they increased the space between the markings, which indicate where groups should stand in queues, to follow safety guidelines. However this was done on their own initiative, and not because of a council directive.

Government guidelines says venues should manage "outside queues to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals, other businesses or additional security risks."

Mr Rowswell added: "Reopening day had a really lovely atmosphere amongst the staff and the customers. We have got a lot of lovely regulars."

Some punters had even booked the day off work just so they could be there to raise a glass to the return of in-person socialising.

Pints for breakfast as pubs reopen across Kent

Local councils also have the power to place restrictions on, or even close, any premises they believe represents "a serious and imminent threat to public health" through the increased risk of spread of the coronavirus.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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