Restaurant owner urges diners not to flout rules or loopholes

Chef patron Ben Handley behind the bar at The Duck Inn in Stanhoe, which was reviewed by Giles Coren

Ben Handley behind the bar at the Duck Inn. - Credit: AWPR/Andrew Waddison

Diners eating out in the run-up to Christmas have been urged to not flout current rules or exploit loopholes. 

Ben Handley, chef patron at the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, said while the vast majority of people were respecting the Tier Two rules, some were confused as to what they were, while others were keen to find ways to work around them.

Currently, restaurants under Tier Two can only serve single households indoors. Mixed households - up to six people - can eat together outdoors, and alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

Mr Handley said he felt there was a difference in attitude in this period compared to that after the last lockdown.

On Saturday night, Mr Handley's brother Sam Handley, general manager, had to question a table of four who were not from the same household. When bookings at taken at the Duck, diners are also asked then whether they come from the same household.

Ben Handley, chef patron of the Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, who has been preparing mea

Duck Inn chef patron Ben Handley. - Credit: Chris Bishop

But he said: "On Saturday night we had a group of people and it was clear that they weren't from the same household. Sam thought 'something doesn't sit right with me'."

Mr Handley said his brother double checked if they were from the same household and was met with a defensive response, with one of the diners saying he had been having business lunches in London all week without issue.

A Number 10 spokesperson has previously said that informal business meetings, or lunches, that must take place face-to-face, are exempt from restrictions. 

Mr Handley said it was a concerning, albeit rare, case, particularly if people were interpreting rules loosely in other areas and then coming up to Norfolk.

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He said it risked the safety of staff and other diners, and put staff in a position of having to police rules.

"It's a really difficult position to be in," he said. "And contradictory to our industry - we want everyone to have a good time."

Tthe Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop

Tthe Duck Inn at Stanhoe, near Burnham Market, during coronavirus lockdown Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

He added: "We are approaching Christmas, it's the most sociable time of the year - we would love to be hosting parties and reunions.

"We understand people have been penned up and want to see their friends, but we have to keep people safe."

He said if people were unsure, the government website had a breakdown on what the rules were by tier.

A government fact sheet showing the rules under Tier Two.

The rules under Tier Two. - Credit: Gov.uk


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