The Oak Inn pub in Coventry is to be investigated, Coventry City Council have announced. It comes after a video circulated of hundreds of people lined up outside hoping to get a seat after lockdown restrictions were eased at midnight.
The easing of restrictions at midnight involved the reopening of shops, pub gardens, hairdressers, and other venues.
While the owner of the Oak Inn, Darren Lee, said the crowds outside of the venue were “very well behaved” and police were content with the situation, Coventry City Council have said there will be an investigation to see whether it followed the rules.
Mr Lee also said 260 customers were seated in groups of six outside, but around 300 to 400 people had to be turned away.
“There was probably about another 300 or 400 people that we had to sadly disappoint because we couldn’t get them in,” he reflected.
“We always do things safely and properly.
“We were able to get outside as per the national guidelines.”
West Midlands Police reported that it had been told of the plans in advance. They added that officers visited the venue and found customers abiding by Government guidelines. They also said pub staff were reminded of their responsibility to enforce social distancing measures when the large queue began to form outside.
We always do things safely and properly
– Darren Lee
Earlier this week, the pub announced that as soon as 12 April began at 12:01 am it would open its doors to eager pub-goers, who were excited to sit down at a venue for the first time since the year began.
Speaking to Coventry Live last week, Mr Lee expressed his excitement at finally opening the doors to the Oak Inn after months of national lockdown. He said: “We attempted to do the same thing when the last time lockdown was lifted in June, but the rules ended up changing last minute.
“We’re trying this time and so far it all seems to be going ahead.
“On Sunday people will be able to sit in our large outside area, in groups no larger than six from no more than two households.
“To follow guidance, it will be table service only, meaning people will only need to come inside the building to use the toilet – which they must wear a mask for.”
Speaking about the further easing of restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the public to conduct themselves responsibly.
He said: “I’m sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it’s a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed.
“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”
All remaining restrictions limiting social contact are planned to be lifted 21 June, continuing the government’s expected roadmap out of lockdown.
Editor’s analysis: Ellie MacArthur, News Editor
With venues surrounding the University set to reopen, the easing of lockdown restrictions has been largely welcomed by students around the country.
After over a year of online socials, hours of sitting inside, and the inability to meet course mates face-to-face, the new restrictions accommodate the desire to savour the remaining time we have left as students.
However, videos such as these raise questions about whether students could be nervous about potential blame for any future rise in cases, or nervous about a lack of social distancing.
Asked whether the video could reflect poorly on students, one University of Warwick student said: “No – I think [a video like] this is inevitable with the rule change and will happen across the country in student and non-student areas.
“I already see social distancing being broken daily at the supermarket, on the streets, etc.
“In Leamington Spa there was a market a few months ago…packed, with social distancing being completely forgotten.
It signals an end to the lockdowns that, while being necessary, have taken away so much important socialising time for students
– University of Warwick Student
“I think that if this is used to make students look bad it will just be a continuation of the scapegoating of students that we saw earlier in the year.”
Students were also asked whether the video made them apprehensive about engaging with the reopening of venues.
One student asked said: “It does make me nervous about visiting local venues, especially as coronavirus cases across the country have fallen recently, I fear the opening of pubs and restaurants could cause them to increase once more.
“I think it could be really successful if measures are followed and strictly enforces.
“I won’t be taking a trip to the pub this week, unfortunately. The weather has put me off and even though I could do with a trip out to get away from staring at my screen, working all day, I’m willing to wait a little longer.
“With the excitement this first week I worry it will be too busy, so might take a trip in a few weeks time instead.”
Another commented that: “If anything it makes me excited!
“It signals an end to the lockdowns that, while being necessary, have taken away so much important socialising time for students.”