Pub and bar landlords around Brixham have spoken about the difficulties they have faced with the latest set of coronavirus restrictions couple with a huge outpouring of grief following a tragic fishing boat incident which has brought the town together.
A number of pubs in the town have decided to closed their doors after police cracked down and visited bars following the Saturday night vigil for the lost Joanna C fishermen.
People in Brixham came together in their hundreds for the beautiful candlelit vigil when lights were shone into the sky to show solidarity with the fishing industry and respect for the families of Adam Harper, 26, and Robert Morley, 38.
Adam’s body was recovered following the incident, but Robert remains lost at sea.
However, after the vigil, police and Torbay licensing officers visited a number of pubs and have threatened to take enforcement action against some.
One of the landlords who was visited by police licensing officers on Saturday evening said: “Nobody wants to be the one to say this – but there were hundreds of people who were clearly not social distancing, or wearing masks around the harbourside.
“People were crying and hugging and we all understand why. But the police ignored that and came into the pubs and started trying to find fault even if we were sticking to all the Tier 2 rules.”
Some of the drinking establishments closed for an hour between 6pm and 7pm as a mark of respect. One bar owner said: “The vigil on Saturday night was beautiful but very sad. Everybody came together in typical Brixham fashion. Adam was a regular of ours.
“It’s great to see the solidarity in the town – but strange to see grown, strong fishermen cry.”
Want to hear more from Devon Live/ Torbay Live? Sign up to our newsletters here.
Another landlord explained: “The fishing industry is a bit different. A lot of these guys are at sea for days on end, with six or eight of them working on a boat in close quarters. They operate as a bubble already and so when they get home they want to go to the pub in that bubble.
“They are not bar owners and they don’t really get why we have to turn them away.
“On Saturday night after the vigil, we had a big group people who came in and asked to sit at three tables – we had to explain that it doesn’t work like that and say sorry but we have to turn you away.
“I don’t know where they went, but I expect they were still going to stick together and have a house party. It’s heartbreaking for the fishing community at a time like this.
“The traditional pubs around the harbour where they would normally get together are all closed.”
Meanwhile, another landlord said: “Most of the pubs around the harbour have shut – the handful that are left are the food places and they are really quiet.”
But some venues in the town have decided to close their doors despite issues surrounding the restrictions.
At The Prince William gastropub, supervisor Linzi Harvey said: “We are still open. It’s very quiet but it’s different for us, because people come in to eat and are all seated at tables indoors. We are more of a restaurant and we don’t have people standing around at the bar.
“We observed the two-minute silence and some of the people who were eating went out to watch the lights being lit on the harbourside.”
Another landlord said: “We had a visit from the police licensing officers on Saturday night, like everyone else – it’s not just Brixham it’s every premises in the whole of Torbay.
“We are sticking to the rules but the atmosphere in Brixham is very sad. The whole town is just very upset.
“A few pubs tried to open over the weekend but it’s dead now with the social bubble rules. We all get whey but people don’t tend to go out to the pub with their own household.
“They go out to meet other people outside their bubble and they can’t do that now.”
Brixham Police said police licensing staff, Torbay Council public protection officers and police officers visited the bars on Saturday evening.
Police said: “A number of premises were found to not be complying with the latest guidelines to varying degrees.
“Discussions are taking place between the Police and Torbay Council about enforcement action related to these premises. Patrons of one establishment have been reported for alleged individual Covid breaches.
“This situation is particularly disappointing considering the spike in Covid cases in Brixham before the November ‘lockdown’ which was caused by people flouting the government restrictions.
“To be clear the rules are as follows – pubs and bars may not provide alcohol for consumption on the premises, unless with a substantial meal, so they are operating as a restaurant.
“Meals are to be eaten, not to be used as a pretext for only drinking. Last orders will be at 10pm and they must close at 11pm.
“Pubs and bars may remain open for take-away services.”
You can only meet socially with friends and family indoors who you either:
• live with you
• have formed a support bubble with
Police have promised to continue checks to make sure tier restrictions are complied with. Allegations of breaches will be investigated.