July 24, 2020 11.14 am This story is over 46 months old

Business which breached coronavirus lockdown faces losing licence

The business “appeared busy” inside, police said

A Boston business owner will be the first in the county to face losing their licence over a breach of coronavirus lockdown legislation.

Owner of the Beira Alta Deli, Patricia Dos Santos Pereira, also failed to display a summary of her premises licence, had no evidence of staff training or enforcement of the Challenge 25 policy, said a police statement to Boston Borough Council’s licensing department.

Officers have also raised concerns over how Mrs Pereira handled designated premises supervisor legislation.

Police have confirmed the business will be the first hearing in relation to breach of the COVID-19 closures by a premises in the county.

It is understood a Spalding business will also be appearing before a committee in the near future.

According to a police statement before Boston Borough Council’s licensing committee next Wednesday, officers first received an anonymous call to tell them the cafe was open for business on May 2.

Restaurants and cafes had been told to close on March 21 as part the government’s lockdown but were later allowed to offer takeaway and delivery services.

Officers visited the premises and spoke to Mrs Pereira, who was moving items from upstairs to downstairs to become a grocery shop.

They said they were “happy at the time she was compliant and she knew what she was and wasn’t allowed to do under the current legislation.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked down the country in a bid to control the coronavirus pandemic in March.

However, on May 29, officers driving past the businesses suspected from “customers’ body language” that it “wasn’t operating within the current legislation.”

They reported three males outside less than 2m apart, and said inside “appeared busy with people”.

A subsequent visit found two patrons inside drinking, one “appeared to be coffee” in a takeaway cup while the other “appeared to be whiskey” in a glass.

They said glassware was seen drying on the drainage board and two bins under the counter were “full of used takeaway coffee cups” which the statement said “had they been taken-away wouldn’t have been in the premises’ bins”.

In contrast to officers’ earlier comments, the statement said: “Mrs Pereira was very keen to blame her lack of knowledge regarding the current legislation on not being able to use the internet, not watching UK TV and not being informed by the council what she could and could not do rather than accept responsibly to find out the relevant information.”

Compliance checks found additional issues – including that although Mrs Pereira had a personal licence she had not successfully been made designated premises supervisor, with the existing one “popping in once a week”.

Police accused Mrs Pereira of making false statements and said the evidence “strongly indicates she was well aware she was breaching the legislation… eventually suggested financial difficulties as the reason behind the unlawful activity”.

Boston Borough Council offices in West Street.

“Many individuals and business are facing very serious financial hardship, however, they have chosen to be responsible, at a huge personal cost to themselves and their families, and abide by the current legislation, therefore not putting themselves, their employees and their customers at risk,” said the statement.

“Lincolnshire Police request that the revocation of the premises licence be seriously considered, due to the deliberate breaches which have caused serious risk and the lack of ownership for any of the issues discovered, which has culminated in actively undermining the licensing objective.”

In an email to the licensing department, Mrs Pereira appeared to deny what has been reported.

“I’m not aware of anything of what was reported on the email but I will do my best to find out more information,” she said.

She added that it was too late to check her cameras as she had taken them out when she started to change the cafe.

“I would like, if possible to see evidence of that as since the lockdown started I only went back to the cafe on that exact date for the first time where I was moving groceries from the first floor to the ground floor with my family and while I was there no-one knocked on my door,” she said.

She added that she had spoken to a police officer between 8-8.30pm while closing the cafe door, but said he had not knocked because she was outside.