TWO bars were closed temporarily over the weekend, just hours after they were allowed to reopen following government guidance and the coronavirus lockdown.

Police visited Number One bar in Darlington and The Wheatsheaf pub in Chilton, both were issued with closure of premises notices, which were placed on the main entrances.

The notice on Bar Number One stated: “When officers arrived at the premises the music was too loud and there was no social distancing taking place. Customers were stood up at the bar, when staff were spoken to by officers, the staff stated that customers would not listen to their instructions and effectively could not control what was taking place in the premises.

“The bar owner was intoxicated and argumentative. He did not seem aware of the guidelines and was certainly not adhering to them. It is believed that if the premises were to remain open it will lead to disorder or nuisance and without intervention I have confidence that the same issues will not re-occur.”

One drinker who visited Bar Number One on Saturday said: “It was busy and the social distancing rules went out the window, they only had four bar staff to serve everyone on their tables.

“I felt safe, but I left before it got even worse.

“Everyone was standing hugging, the bar manager was giving out free drinks because people were waiting that long.

“There was supposed to be some sort of toilet system, but there wasn’t, like everyone was in there.”

The Wheatsheaf in Chilton was also served a notice for issue of closure under sections 76 and 77 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

The notice said: “Officers conducting a routine premises check were faced with a drunken abusive male outside of the premises. The male was carrying a glass receptacle and despite numerous warnings about his behaviour the male continued and was ultimately arrested.

“During the arrest a group of 15 to 20 intoxicated males came out of the premises and a number tried to intervene and obstruct the officers. Assistance was requested and officers arriving on scene found a large group drinking on the footpath outside the premises and several were even drinking in a nearby bus-stop.

“Officers were subjected to abuse and such was the hostility of those customers present at the scene, officers were unable to physically get inside the premises to inspect the conditions. Those outside of the premises were drinking from glass receptacles rather than plastic.

“There were no door staff at the premises and only three female members of staff who were unable to control the actions of those present at the scene. The person in charge of the premises had left for ‘an hour or so’.

“The owner informed officers that there has been problems earlier in the day with a group of men from the Shildon area. The owner stated she had had enough and was closing the premises.

“The owner was unaware of the reduced capacity as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and it was clear to attending officers that the premises were overcrowded (inside persons were shoulder to shoulder) and persons were not adhering to any form of  social distancing.

“I am satisfied that use of this premises has resulted in nuisance to the local community/members of the public, that there has been incident of public order and that is likely soon to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises and that the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder continuing , recurring or occurring.”

A spokesperson from Durham Police said: “To those of you who went steady for your first drink back at the pub – thank you.

“To those licensees who worked with us to keep everyone safe – thank you.

“To those who act irresponsibly and put people at risk – we will not tolerate you.

“Officers were out in force throughout the weekend as many pubs and bars reopened their doors to the public after three months of lockdown.

“We were pleased to see many had heeded the message to go steady and helped their customers enjoy themselves responsibly.

“The vast majority of revellers were in good spirits and engaged with officers on the ground. For that, we thank you.

“However, two premises – Number One bar in Darlington and The Wheatsheaf pub in Chilton – had to be shut down after irresponsible behaviour put people at risk.

“These premises are now being looked at by officers and our colleagues at the respective local authorities who will consider whether future activity is needed.”

Chief Inspector Neal Bickford said: “We want to say a massive thank you to those responsible establishments who complied with all the regulations to allow people to have a safe and enjoyable trip back to the pub.

“We know it has been a tough three months for both businesses and revellers so it was great to see the vast majority of people working with us.

“We will always look to work with those who need to improve but unfortunately two premises did have to be closed on Saturday following unacceptable behaviour.”

Councillor Kevin Nicholson, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for health and housing, said: “The vast majority of pubs and bars in Darlington were well-managed and had the relevant measures in place to ensure a safe, secure environment for their customers.

“Sadly, problems including poor social distancing were reported at one venue, with police taking the decision to close one venue in particular late on Saturday night.

“Once the police have completed a review of the weekend’s events, they will decide what further action to take. This could include applying for a licensing review.

“Going forward, the council’s licensing, environmental protection and town centre management teams will continue to work closely with the police to keep people safe in Darlington’s pubs and bars.

“It is important that everyone plays their part in helping to control the spread of the virus by sticking to the rules, those rules are there to protect everyone, and the council takes seriously any breach in licensing regulations. We cannot and we will not allow the progress we have made so far to be jeopardised.”

Number One bar posted on their Facebook earlier today saying they would be opening tonight.

The Northern Echo has contacted both premises but had not received a response at the time of going to press.