Pub landlords face fines of £1,000 if they allow dancing or music above 85 decibels on their property, a new coronavirus law now dictates. The fine is just one of several law changes in England that were passed on Sunday night. According to Downing Street, the set of laws will ensure that new coronavirus restrictions introduced to curb a recent spike in Covid-19 cases are followed. But the decision has only increased outrage among Tory MPs who are bidding for a legislation change that will allow them to vote and debate coronavirus measures before they’re made into law. The new rules were already stated in guidance to hospitality venues such as pubs, cafes and restaurants, but the law makes breaching them a criminal offence. Venue managers will now have to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to stop customers dancing and singing, or socialising in groups of more than six people.

It is also illegal for such venues to play music ‘which exceeds 85 decibels when measured at the source of the music’. Government sources said putting a limit on the volume of music helps prevent customers from shouting to be heard – something that can increase the risk of transmission.

An ‘appropriate distance’ of two metres between tables was also made a legal requirement for managers, although one metre is allowed if tables are arranged back to back, with screens between them, or if other preventative measures are taken.

Finally, managers are legally obligated to refuse a booking of more than six people, and must stop groups of more than six mingling inside the venue. As of today, failure to adhere to these regulations in England is a criminal offence, and those who don’t follow the rules will be fined £1,000. If paid promptly, the fine can be reduced to £500 – but repeat offences will see it rise to £2,000, £4,000, then £10,000.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: ‘We know that the vast majority of people want to do the right thing. What we are setting out is that those who recklessly take risks with the health of their friends, families and communities should expect this to be taken seriously.’ But many of those working within the industry feel the increasingly tight restrictions on hospitality businesses will make it hard for pubs to pull through. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘The cumulative impact of layering restriction upon restriction is making it harder for pubs to survive. We have already seen a total ban on music in pubs in Scotland, which has seen trade plummet there. ‘The sector has not been consulted on the evidence base for these extra restrictions on music. We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as businesses, but the Government is in danger of cutting off any chance of a recovery.’

Darcy Jimenez (The Metro)

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