Shop Local: Teething problems at St Albans Charter Market as second lockdown kicks in

Police order a flower seller to remove their wares from St Albans Charter Market on Saturday.

Police order a flower seller to remove their wares from St Albans Charter Market on Saturday. - Credit: Archant

The onset of a second lockdown - with a different rules and restrictions than previously - resulted in confusion for traders and customers at St Albans Charter Market.

Police order a flower seller to remove their wares from St Albans Charter Market on Saturday.

Police order a flower seller to remove their wares from St Albans Charter Market on Saturday. - Credit: Archant

Although the government has permitted more businesses to continue trading through this lockdown, many retailers and market traders have been restricted to just click and collect or delivery trading.

Under the new regulations, although plants and shrubs can be sold on the market, flowers cannot, which resulted in police officers swooping on one trader last Saturday, forcing them to clear up their wares and leave.

Cllr Mandy McNeil, portfolio holder for business, tourism and culture, admitted there had been confusion over what could be sold.

“While it strikes me as odd that I can go into M&S and purchase flowers on St Peter’s Street, but can’t walk 10 steps and do the same on the market, or down the road to one of our fine flower shops, new government regulations currently preclude this from happening.

“To that extent, SADC licensing officers let our flower traders know in advance that flowers were not permitted on the market. However, the message might have been missed, or there may have been understandable confusion from a trader over new regs, just as there was with our market officers on the ground who conflated flowers and plants.

“So the trader showed up and was then closed down by the police, as part of what I understand was a special police exercise that closed flower traders at multiple local authority run markets. It seems to me that everyone is still catching up with the new regs.” There had also been criticism of the market for allowing the sale of alcoholic drinks while our pubs remain shut, with Ye Olde Fighting Cocks singling out a mobile gin van outside The Boot.

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“Get this! Mobile gin bar is set up right outside the very closed Boot pub in the town centre. That is the biggest p**s take I have ever seen on any level. It’s a disgrace of the highest order!” said the pub on its Facebook page.

Mandy explained: “Off-license alcohol sales are permitted on the market. This offering has been integral to the incubation and support of many of our St Albans and Hertfordshire businesses. As you will be aware, Old Vodka, Chiltern Beer, 3Brewers and Farr Brew have traded on St Albans markets.

“The Gin Bar is not operating as a wet bar, it sells packaged Hertfordshire and other specialty gins. I understand that the business operated as a click and collect service on Saturday, although off-license sales are permitted. The Saturday market was a smaller market offering and thus the stall was moved from its regular High Street location to outside Masters in Light/Gail’s, nearby to the Boot, which was sadly, closed.”

With our local retailers continuing to struggle through the latest lockdown, Mandy is firmly behind the Herts Ad’s ongoing #ShopLocal campaign.

She said: “It is absolutely devastating to see so many of our hospitality, retail and market trader businesses closed again and they all need our support in the face of competing with supermarkets and the giants of the digital economy.

“I back the Herts Advertiser Shop Local campaign and have asked our SADC market and licensing officers to get businesses, like The Boot, out on to our markets during lockdown as takeaway, off-license or click and collect. Officers are also exploring how we may be able to work with other businesses who have offered the use of their land in order to establish or re-establish community hubs and mini markets, around the wards in order to take pressure off city centre pedestrian traffic.

“If we can all work together, we can help save our independent businesses.”