November 17, 2020 4.31 pm This story is over 42 months old

Lincoln art gallery that sold toilet paper to avoid lockdown now forced to close

They’ve found a loophole that’s now been closed

By Local Democracy Reporter

An art gallery in Lincoln that stayed open through lockdown by selling a handful of essential goods will have to close after a loophole in the guidance was closed by government.

The Little Red Gallery in uphill Lincoln is an art gallery by trade, but found a way to stay open during coronavirus lockdown.

As per government guidelines, all non-essential shops had to close, galleries included, until lockdown is lifted on December 2 at the earliest.

This rule has been tested by businesses throughout lockdown, and the Little Red Gallery started selling essential items to ensure it can stay open.

The gallery was selling toilet roll, teabags, sugar and other goods that were been deemed essential enough to keep it open for business, but art sales will still be online only.

The Little Red Gallery says it also did this during the first lockdown to stay open, in an interview with BBC Look North.

Owner Hazel Venn doesn’t think she’s bending the rules by selling these items in her gallery.

She said: “It’s following the rules that are available. Everybody who is an independent shop could actually apply to be an independent seller.”

These rules have since been changed and the shop will now have to stop trading for the remainder of lockdown as a result.

Updated guidance now clearly states: “A premise required to be closed cannot have a small offering of essential retail aspect to be able to be open.”

A notice in the window explains that City of Lincoln Council had approved the decision to keep the shop open, due to the fact that “essential goods” could be bought there.

City of Lincoln Council deems the goods sold by The Little Red Gallery to be essential. | Photo: The Lincolnite

The council has now contacted the gallery and told them to cease trading, but will offer any guidance on business grants it may be eligible for.

The Little Red Gallery declined to comment after The Lincolnite‘s approach for a statement.

A spokesperson for City of Lincoln Council said: “The Little Red Gallery has been operating in a limited way since the start of lockdown by classing themselves as a food retailer and selling a small number of essential items.

“They have been able to do this as there wasn’t clear guidance in place to cover their situation.

“However, central government has this afternoon issued clarification of its guidance on which shops can and cannot trade during the current lockdown.

“As such, the ‘loophole’ which allowed the business to trade as a food retailer has been closed and Little Red Gallery will need to cease trading for the remainder of lockdown.”

Chief superintendent Paul Timmins at Lincolnshire Police told The Lincolnite that businesses across the country were doing similar things, calling it a ‘growing issue’.

“We’ve had some issues where stores that would normally sell hardware type items are now also putting shelves up to sell food.

“It’s actually starting to cause quite a lot of disgruntlement within the business community about those that play by the rules, and those that don’t.”