Council officers who are not sure of how to interpret rules close coffee shop

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Officers who are not sure of how to interpret rules close coffee shop.

Bedford Borough’s environmental health officials have come under fire from a north Beds garden centre.

Milton Ernest Garden Centre had received several visits from the Council since the beginning of January this year, checking their Covid arrangements.

On Wednesday, April 21, an official in a hi-vis jacket complete with clipboard appeared and deemed the garden centre’s ‘coffee shop’ didn’t comply to the government’s Covid rules.

Although this officer was not quite sure and reverted to a more senior member of his department, David Rubidge (an enforcement officer), who visited the garden centre on Friday, April 30.

This visit was on the cusp of what would be a very busy May bank holiday weekend.

Mr Rubidge notified the garden centre that they were in breach of the Covid rules and would have to close the coffee shop.

Management emphasised the fact that they had stocked up on food to cover the holiday. Mr Rubidge relented and told the garden centre they could open for the weekend but would have to close by 5pm Wednesday, May 5, if we did not move our current serving area to outside in the plant area in the open air or remove the plastic walls by this date and time.

Garden Centre management are totally bemused and confused, “the supposedly dangerous arrangements are not too dangerous that we can open for three days over the holiday!”

To comply with the council’s interpretation of the rules would cost the garden centre at least £2000 to remove some plastic walls, just to be open for a further 11 days, when the rules are to be relaxed.

Senior Centre Manager, Amber Murray said: “We have furloughed, 12 café staff, who are extremely upset as they had only just returned to work when the coffee shop opened on April 15.

Amber continued: “Surely the Borough, who had visited us at least four times since January could have discussed and advised us prior to our reopening.

“What are we to do, the officer says that we do not comply with a 50% air flow rule, yet they didn’t measure anything, just stuck their finger in the air and closed us down.

“None of this makes any sense at all.”