Pub marquees row in Parliament as South Shields MP takes on Health Secretary Matt Hancock over outdoor hospitality rules
A South Tyneside MP has taken the Government to task over mixed messages on pubs and restaurants using marquees under restrictions around outdoor hospitality.
Venues serving food and drink were allowed to reopen for outdoor service from April 12 as covid restrictions eased, and many businesses in South Tyneside have created new al fresco seating or invested heavily in existing outside areas.
But with British weather proving unpredictable, particularly in the month of April – where snow has been seen as well as sunshine in recent days – South Shields’ MP Emma Lewell-Buck quizzed the Government on the rules around shelters for outdoor hospitality.
Ms Lewell-Buck asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock why hospitality venues can serve inside marquees but not inside other Covid-compliant environments.
Speaking in a session in the House of Commons on April 13, she said: “Yesterday, many hospitality venues remained closed. Those who could open erected large marquees and were able to recover some of the losses that they have suffered.
“Others were completely dismayed as (it) is very clear that there is no difference at all between some of these marquees and well-ventilated, Covid-secure indoor hospitality.
“So can the Secretary of State explain what he perceives the difference to be?”
Matt Hancock replied: “Yes, the definition of outdoors used in these regulations is the one set out by the Labour government in the ban on indoor smoking.”
Ms Lewell-Buck has also been fighting the corner of hospitality businesses in South Tyneside, where she claims the council needs to work better with venue owners to ensure they have enough support and clear guidance.
Some firms, supported by the MP, told the Gazette they had faced frustrating waits over outdoor seating permissions, and felt there had been conflicting advice from council officers.
But South Tyneside Council cited its dedicated team set up to help businesses as lockdown eased, and other ways it was supporting businesses, including fast-tracking pavement cafe applications and waving fees.