Sunderland's Wheatsheaf pub landlord speaks out over Covid fines - that he says he still hasn't received
A pub landlord says he’d given five men a can of beer each to say thank you for helping move a pool table when Covid marshalls and police arrived following an anonymous tip-off.
Gary Laidler, who has been landlord of the Wheatsheaf in Monkwearmouth since December 2019, says the five men had been helping with refurbishment work at the pub when Northumbria Police and Covid marshals attended at around 4.20pm in the afternoon.
The 53-year-old said the helpers – who were regulars he trusted – were sat waiting for taxis to take them home while drinking a can each that he’d given them to thank them for their work. He insists that no money had crossed hands.
Sunderland City Council and Northumbria Police confirmed on Friday, January 29, that the landlord of the Roker Avenue venue and five others had each been fined £200 Fixed Penalty Notices.
But Mr Laidler insists neither he nor the men helping have received a fine as of today (Wednesday, February 3).
He said: “When the police and the Covid team came in – apparently they had been watching us for three days after getting an anonymous tip-off that the doors were open and that we were serving.
"My pumps have been on line cleaner since before Christmas back in November.
"The five lads had been helping me with bits and pieces for a refurbishment.
"On the day they came we’d put the pool table upstairs and to say thank you to the lads I’d bought them a can each because I couldn’t afford to pay them.
"As far as I’m concerned I’ve done nothing wrong. The problem was that the lads were sitting drinking as they were waiting for a taxi to take them home – not that they were in the pub working.”
Mr Laidler, who has worked at the pub since 2014 but only became landlord three months before the first lockdown, says he has spent ‘a fortune’ making the pub Covid safe so customers could use it when it’s allowed to be open.
He said the five men had been helping with painting, some joinery work and moving the pool table upstairs where he is creating a sports bar in the function room.
"I’ve heard nothing about a fine – nothing at all,” said Mr Laidler. “This is what I couldn’t understand when I saw articles published saying I had been fined.
"It was a shock to me because as far as I’d been aware I hadn’t been fined – I still haven’t received a fine.”
He added: “People are damning me and I’ve done nothing wrong.
“The damage that it has done to my business – I have only just took it over."
The pub’s premises licence owner and landlord have both been served with a Prohibition Notice by Sunderland City Council, which could result in prosecution and a fine should there be any further breaches of the law.
Council Leader Councillor Graeme Miller, said previously: "This was a clear breach of the current lockdown rules which are in place to keep us all safe.
"We hope that this sends out a clear message to any businesses tempted to break the rules, that we will take action against those found to be putting people at risk."