The Plume of Feathers in Greenwich has been criticised for organising an event for local residents, despite strict orders requiring pubs, bars and restaurants to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The venue’s landlord has denied wrongdoing, saying social distancing markers were in place on the street outside and residents were only allowed in the pub to use the bathroom one at a time.
But one eyewitness, who did not wish to be named, said it was ‘shocking’ to see so many people grouped together in a brazen ‘disregard’ of the ‘stay at home rules’.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘There was probably about 30 people outside. [The pub managers] are saying it was a local event organised for VE Day. Regardless whether that was the case you are only allowed to leave the house for essential journeys or exercise.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
‘We walked right through the middle of it, people were not socially distancing. They are saying they are allowed to serve takeaway beer but people were breaking rules by standing outside the pub.
For all the latest news and updates on Coronavirus, click here.
‘It was shocking, I could not believe it. You are not used to seeing pubs open. This should not be happening.’
Brits across the country were pictured appearing to break lockdown on Friday, as soaring temperatures coincided with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Agroup of VE Day revellers in Warrington sparked fury by performing a mass conga dance, while A BBC report showing a Portsmouth street rammed with residents holding an outdoor party also sparked outrage.
There have been complaints about mixed messaging coming out of Downing Street after Boris Johnson said restrictions could be eased as early as Monday, only to face backlash from critics such as Nicola Sturgeon, who said relaxing measures now could be ‘catastrophic’.
The concerned Greenwich resident blamed confusing advice from the government on people flouting the rules this weekend.
‘I think everybody has heard this talk that there’s going to be an ease of lockdown and they are presuming they can do what they want now’ he said.
‘It’s wrong, this is probably just the start of it. If pubs owners see one place opening, they will want to open theirs as well.’
Ministers desperately attempted to tone down the rhetoric of loosening restrictions ahead of the Bank Holiday Weekend.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson asked the public to stick to guidance during the warm weather – meaning only leaving the house for an essential journey or exercise, and not lingering or gathering in parks and beaches.
However, he said if people wanted to mark VE Day they should do so in line with social distancing measures – leading many to justify holding large street parties as long as separate households could stay two metres apart.
The Plume of Feathers landlord, Susan Rose, 70, told Metro.co.uk she believed she was following this guidance when she organised the event on the request of her tight-knight community.
She and son James, joint license holder, put out two-metre markings right down the street leading to Greenwich park using tape and beer barrels. She said individual households stuck to their own box and most brought their own alcohol to mark the occasion.
She denied ‘opening’ the pub, saying when alcohol was served, people were asked to stay within their box and a drink was handed to them from a distance in a plastic cup.
She said: ‘We take the well-being and safety of our neighbours & clientele extremely seriously, we closed The Plume two days before Boris Johnson announced that pubs were to close.
‘The gathering began, our neighbours bringing their own drinks and food. After a time people came to ask if we were serving takeaway drinks.
‘Orders were taken outside of the pub & drinks served outside in plastic containers. Distancing was working very well. If it appears there are people standing or sitting closely they would be families or friends that have self-isolated together. The beautiful weather made neighbours stay longer than anticipated by us, more people were coming for off sales and we decided to end the gathering.’
Ms Rose claims police arrived at the scene as the gathering was ending and that officers accepted her explanation.
A Met Police spokesperson said: ‘Police were contacted at around 17:00hrs on Friday, 8 May about a number of people gathered at a pub in Park Vista, Greenwich.
‘Officers attended the venue at around 19:00hrs and spoke to those gathered to explain the current restrictions. Those present moved on.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.