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Merthyr social club closed down for ‘lack of control’ over customers

Merthyr Labour Club & Institute Court House

A Merthyr Tydfil social club has been forced to close for two weeks after officers from the Cwm Taf Joint Enforcement Team ‘could not believe the lack of control’ of customers who had their arms around each other and borrowed other people’s facemasks to enter the premises.

Merthyr Labour Club & Institute Court House has been shut down under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 for failing to take ‘reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus or the spread of coronavirus by those who have been at the premises’.

The Joint Enforcement Team comprises officers from the local authority, South Wales Police and Covid Enforcement Officers.

The closure notice was served by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council enforcement officer Aneurin Hughes on proprietor Robert Healey for contravening requirements in the following ways:

  • The Risk Assessment for the premises was not available for viewing by staff, customers or enforcement officers; and the Designated Covid Monitor did not actually know he was that person, so did not know his duties and responsibilities.
  • Staff said ID verification was being conducted, but officers witnessed people entering the premises who were not checked at all; there was no pre-booking system and no allocated time slots – all customers were ‘walk-ups’, and not the required minimal numbers.
  • Customers were entering the premises ‘shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other’, and the background music was so high, a normal conversation could not take place without people having to raise their voices. Customers were ‘shouting and very boisterous’, and were free to roam about the premises rather than be sat at their tables as prescribed by the regulations. There was no evidence of staff controlling their behaviour.
  • There was ‘totally insufficient’ cleaning of toilets and touch points, and the member of staff cleaning the toilets did not have the appropriate PPE equipment – no disposable apron or gloves – and continued with her bar or table service in unprotected clothing.
  • There was no control at all of outdoor/ smoking areas or queueing. There were customers smoking outside with no social distancing in place and no monitoring. Customers were not wearing a face covering when leaving the premises for a cigarette and were asking to borrow face coverings from other customers to get back into the premises, presenting a seriously high risk of cross contamination.

“Following a member of staff recently testing positive for Covid-19, to find the premises in such disarray and lacking any form of control is testament to the issuing of this notice,” said the Council’s Head of Protection and Safety Services, Paul Lewis.

“The officers who attended the premises could not believe the lack of control, the low staffing levels and the complete lack of awareness of both staff and customers. Customers were allowed to behave as if it were normal. They were free to roam from room to room, shouting at each other across the room and generally behaving as if there were no restrictions in place.”

Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas said: “The premises allowed this behaviour and obviously did not have sufficient policies and procedures in place to control this regulated premises in line with the Welsh Government’s coronavirus regulations and its prescribed guidance.

“The Council wishes to inform all licensed premises across the county borough that we take these regulations and any breach of them very seriously indeed. We all have a duty to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus and licensees must adhere to the rules.”