St Albans café told to remove outside tables as they breach social distancing rules

The district council has told owner of Smokehouse Deli, St Albans to remove the tables from outside

The district council has told owner of Smokehouse Deli, St Albans to remove the tables from outside his cafe. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

A St Albans café owner has accused the district council of being ‘draconian’ over COVID-19 issues.

Gels Picciuto, of The Smokehouse Deli in Cell Barnes Lane, has put two tables outside his café, each with one chair at them, which he says are used mainly by older people.

But when a district council environmental health practitioner visited him on June 2 he was told this could not continue.

He was given seven days to comply before they would take legal action.

He said: “We’ve tried sensitively to deal with the COVID issues.

“The facility of one table and one chair has been being used by those who do their daily exercise. It benefited their mental health within social distancing guidelines.

“The council has chosen to be draconian and immovable with the application of logic and best practice.”

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The café owner said that there are several public benches outside the parade of shops where people sit and he does not understand why the council has not removed those.

Adding: “They are refusing to remove the benches due to the cost. Funding should not be a concern if they are adamant that this is a public health issue.”

He said his tables and chairs are just a few metres away from the benches yet he is not permitted to keep them in place.

A spokesperson from St Albans council said: “Restaurants and cafés are only allowed to operate as take-aways currently.

“Having tables for customers, whether inside or outside, conflicts with that as it encourages people to congregate rather than adhere to social distancing.”

The law the council is referring to is: “Allowing the customers to consume food or drinks at the tables outside in the front of the café is a breach of section 4 (1) (b) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (The Covid-19 Regulations). The cited legislation requires that during the emergency period due to Covid 19 “business must cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises”, this includes “ area adjacent to the premises of the business where seating is made available for customers of the business”.