Police break up garden bar service at restaurant

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willow barn
Willow Barn had set up a temporary bar at its entrance

A RESTAURANT in New Milton allowing customers to drink and eat in its large garden was ordered by police to stop or face losing its licence for flouting lockdown rules.

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Willow Barn, in Gore Road, had set up a temporary bar at its entrance at the weekend selling draft beer and other drinks.

Customers flocked to the eatery in the hot weather, while sitting at socially-distanced outdoor benches. On social media one woman thanked the restaurant saying it was the “most normal I have felt in so long”.

But within a couple of days of the bar being set up, police ordered the owners to shut their garden to customers or face further action.

The hospitality industry is permitted to reopen for takeaway and delivery, under national lockdown rules, but customers are not allowed to consume anything on the premises. Any business flouting the rules risks losing its licence.

A friend of the Willow Barn owners told the A&T: “The police turned up and told everyone they had to leave, but bizarrely they were told they could take their drinks to Fawcetts Field. It all seemed very heavy-handed.

“The owners were only trying to keep their business going. They have had no revenue for nearly three months.”

Mabel’s Cafe, at Shallowmead Nurseries in Boldre Lane, near Lymington, was similarly told by environmental health officers last week to remove chairs and tables from a courtyard.

A staff member at the café, which offers takeaway, told the A&T: “It was really disappointing as the chairs were put out to help those who are infirm or unable to walk very far.

“But we do understand that under the regulations tables and chairs are not allowed so we have taken them away.”

New Forest District Council confirmed it had spoken to both premises. Its food and safety team had been alerted by the police to the Willow Barn incident and it was investigating further, it said.

In a statement it added: “The new legislation on coronavirus has required many food and retail businesses to close to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“The council’s food and safety team have been working with many of these businesses to help them change their processes and operations so they can remain open.”

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