Owner of Durham city bar fined for breaking lockdown curfew

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Durham County Council’s inspection found that 19Twenty restaurant served customers past 10pm during October 2020, resulting in a court issued fine.

The court heard from Durham County Council’s compliance officers, who inspected the restaurant on the 23rd October 2020 and found that it served customers outside of legal trading hours. At this time, the curfew had been instigated in the North East to prevent a second spike in coronavirus cases.

Following this inspection, on the 13th November 2020, Koroglu, the restaurant’s owner, was issued a £1000 fixed penalty notice. This was not paid within the 28-day timeframe.

At a previous court appearance, Koroglu pleaded not guilty to one count of breaching health protection regulations, although he did not attend the most recent magistrates court hearing. His recent fine consisted of £100 for the forementioned breach of lockdown restrictions, £200 in legal costs, and a £34 victim surcharge.

“I hope that this outcome will reassure other traders that did their best to ensure compliance, that there were sanctions for those who didn’t.”

Owen Cleugh

Durham County Council’s compliance officers gave accounts of the inspection, which occurred after 10pm, at the court hearing. The officers told the court that they “observed two men standing in the open doorway of the premises, […] several people sat at a table inside the restaurant and […] six to eight people sat at a table which held plates, wine glasses and carafes of wine”

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said, “Our decision to prosecute Mr Koroglu sends a clear message to those who act irresponsibly that it is not acceptable to ignore legislation.”

This specific set of coronavirus restrictions came into place on the 17th September last year, amid fears of a second spike in coronavirus cases in the North East. Pubs, bars, and restaurants in Newcastle, Tyneside, Durham, and Sunderland were instructed to close by 10pm. These restrictions, which also included a ban on household mixing, covered a population of around 1.5 million people.

Many venues, including Esquires Coffee in Durham, were forced to close because of financial losses during the pandemic. 19Twenty is a fairly new restaurant in Durham – it had only opened on 10th August 2020 before the inspection in October. The magistrates said that they took into consideration the suffering of the hospitality industry when deciding the level of fine imposed.

Cleugh also reassured other business owners in and around Durham, “We are committed to supporting legitimate businesses and I hope that this outcome will reassure other traders that did their best to ensure compliance, that there were sanctions for those who didn’t.”

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