A PUB landlord has said he is ‘gutted’ after being told his expensive outdoor dining pods were no longer Covid-safe by the council.

The Spread Eagle pub on Northcourt Road in Abingdon was told two weeks after re-opening for outdoor dining that the expensive pods no longer obeyed Government Covid regulations.

Landlord Nicholas Crawford had the pods, which cost £30,000, installed during the first lockdown last year after being given planning permission by Vale of the White Horse District Council.

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When pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen for outdoor seating in June 2020, the council allowed the pods to be used by customers.

Due to the success of the pods, Mr Crawford decided to spend a further £30,000 to install more of them in the pub's garden for when outdoor dining was allowed once again in April.

Landlord of The Spreadeagle pub Nic Crawford has turned the pubs hygiene score from zero to four. .06.07.2017..Picture by Jon Lewis...

Landlord of The Spreadeagle pub Nic Crawford has turned the pub's hygiene score from zero to four. .06.07.2017..Picture by Jon Lewis...

Yet because of new Government regulations that require outdoor dining areas to be open to 50 per cent of the air, the council told Mr Crawford he could no longer use his booths.

Mr Crawford said: "We were able to use the first set of pods all the time we were open last year, and because they were so well used we decided we would build another set of pods.

"We got planning permission again and the council knew what we were using them for, so we opened on April 12 for two weeks, but then we were told we had to shut them down."

The council told the pub landlord that the pods were not allowed to reopen until indoor dining was legal again.

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The Government's Covid roadmap says the earliest date that indoor dining can resume is May 17.

Mr Crawford now says that he is losing at least 50 per cent of customers and has had to spend a further £2,000 on extra marquees and outdoor tables so they can serve customers in the pub's car park.

He said: "Our customers are gutted - no one can believe that the council has done this.

"I think it is an injustice for our customers."

"We have spent nearly two days in man-hours ringing people and asking if they can move to marquee's instead of looking after our customers."

Pub regulars flocked to the Spread Eagle's Facebook page to express their disappointment, frustration, and sympathy that the pub could no longer keep its outdoor dining pods open.

The British Institute of Innkeeping and Abingdon MP Layla Moran have also got involved to question the council over the change in the requirements for outdoor dining.

A spokesperson for the Vale of the White Horse said: "The Government has set out the restrictions businesses must follow at each stage of their roadmap out of lockdown and frustratingly for pubs the government’s rules have changed since outdoor hospitality was last permitted.

"The council has a statutory duty to ensure businesses comply with the Government’s rules and our approach is to work constructively with owners on measures they can take to maximise their operations."

The council also said that, under Step Two of the Government's roadmap, it shows that while pubs are allowed to use outdoor shelters, they must have at least 50 per cent of their walls open while in use.

It added that the pods at the Spread Eagle are enclosed on three sides, which while would have been permissible in December, are no longer under the Government's new regulations.