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Patrols across Tonbridge and Malling will be on the lookout to ensure reopened pubs follow Covid-19 rules

Pubs reopening after lockdown are being warned they could face prosecution if they flout the rules.

Patrols will be operating in Tonbridge and Malling from Saturday to ensure businesses are enabling social distancing and taking other steps to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Pubs are reopening on Saturday - but landlords have been warned they could be forced to close if Covid-19 rules are broken.
Pubs are reopening on Saturday - but landlords have been warned they could be forced to close if Covid-19 rules are broken.

Government rules require landlords and business owners to adapt how they operate, for example with table-only service, restricting the number of customers, rearranging seating and providing hand sanitiser to customers.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) - which licences around 380 pubs, restaurants, cafes and other businesses - is hosting a series of briefings for publicans and other hospitality firms to ready them for what has been dubbed 'Super Saturday' as more businesses emerge from shutdown.

The council will have officers and licensing teams patrolling in towns and villages in the borough to check the rules are being obeyed, working with Kent Police to take action if problems are identified.

Coronavirus regulations enable councils to serve a prohibition notice requiring a breach of the rules to stop, or take further action to prevent further flouting of the regulations. This could include requiring a business to close in order to prevent a breach of the guidelines.

If issues persist, then business owners risk prosecution and an unlimited fine.

Watch: A new era for Kent as the government relaxes lockdown rules

Cllr Des Keers, chairman of the TMBC licensing panel, said: "It's great news that people can start socialising again but these latest changes also pose potential risks, especially if business owners or their customers don't stick to the rules.

"We want to see people enjoying themselves in our towns and villages but everyone must take their responsibilities seriously.

"While the primary duty to protect customers and staff rests with landlords and business owners, we won't hesitate to take action if there are problems."

Some pubs and restaurants have decided against reopening on Saturday, with one publican telling KentOnline it would be "irresponsible" while the coronavirus infection is still prevalent in the community.

Leading behavioural scientist Richard Scase, a professor at the University of Kent, has also warned Saturday's re-opening of pubs will be "a recipe for disaster".

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge

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