A COUNTY Durham publican has called for "common sense" after being told he must not use beach huts installed in his beer garden ahead of April 12.

Colin Curran, who runs The Farmer's Arms at Shadforth, near Durham, received a visit from Durham County Council last weekend where he was told they do not comply with latest government guidance.

Mr Curran has since hit back at "unclear and continually-changing" rules, warning of the financial impact on cancelled bookings as a result of uncertain weather.

READ MORE: The 50 plus beer gardens opening in County Durham on April 12

However, Durham County Council has responded saying they "always seek to advise and support businesses," while a Government spokesperson has said it must take a "cautious approach."

Under latest rules, outdoor venues including marquees and shelters can have a roof, but they must have at least 50 per cent of their walls open - any venue which does not follow the latest rules will not be allowed to serve food or drink.

The Northern Echo:

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Curran said: "We spent thousands of pounds renovating our beer garden by making it covid-secure and practical for outdoor dining with unpredictable British weather.

"We built five beautiful beach huts with under table heating and stylish lighting which complied with previous government regulations.

"But last weekend, we had a visit from Durham County Council and were informed we cannot use the sheds as they do not comply with current regulations."

The Northern Echo:

Doors would be left open to provide ventilation Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Mr Curran, who has run the pub along with partner, Raymond Brosnan for the past year, spent around £15,000 transforming the beer garden - extending into the car park, adding astroturf and the five beach huts.

'Not financially viable'

But fearing the updated rules could "financially buckle" any small business who had tried to adapt their beer gardens to maximise trade, he said: "It is not financially viable for us to open due to unpredictable British weather.

SEE MORE: The 50 plus list of beer gardens opening in County Durham on April 12

"We could have a busy week ahead and commit to staffing and fresh produce, then if it rains most reservations would understandably cancel which would financially buckle any small business."

Before being made aware, Mr Curran said he had taken more than 100 bookings for the beach huts for one Saturday alone.

The Northern Echo:

He said: "There should be an exception to allow single households to use the sheds, there is no difference from a family sitting around a dining table at home to a single household dining in a shed in a beer garden.

"If only they could apply a little common sense to the new rulings."

'We'll end up having to throw out consumables'

Mr Curran, who employs around six full and part time staff at the pub, believed the latest guidance would lead to businesses being forced to throw out consumables and issues with staffing.

He added: "If the weather is bad, we wont be able to trade – we'll end up having to throw out all the consumables we've bought. It's just frustrating."

Despite the setback, Mr Curran vowed to open to customers on April 12 with the beach huts cordoned off until restrictions are further lifted.

'We always seek to advise and support businesses'

In response, Michael Yeadon, environment and health protection manager at Durham County Council, said it was acting in line with the current guidance on the reopening of hospitality.

He said: "The current legislation, that will permit the phased re-opening of hospitality venues from 12 April, defines what constitutes ‘indoors’ by making reference to the well-established principles of ‘enclosed’ or ‘substantially enclosed’ structures, which were introduced under the Health Act 2006 in respect of smoking shelters.

"Only structures that have open space along more than 50 per cent of their perimeter are deemed to be ‘outdoors,’ and therefore suitable for use from 12 April.

“In this case, we were made aware of some concerns about structures at The Farmer’s Arms in Shadforth, following which a member of our Coronavirus Compliance Team visited the premises to carry out an assessment.

“We have advised the licensee that the structures are classed as enclosed or substantially enclosed under the relevant regulations and that, unless modified, they should not by law be used by customers until indoor service is possible, hopefully in June.

“We always seek to advise and support businesses and encourage any with queries about coronavirus regulations to contact us.”

'We are doing everything we can to back hospitality'

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Government said it was doing everything it could to back the hospitality sector as it prepares to reopen on Monday.

They said: “We are continuing to make good progress in tackling the virus, with case rates and hospitalisations down and more than 31m people vaccinated. But we cannot be complacent or lose sight of the risks this virus poses.

“That is why we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening and monitor the data at every stage. Moving too fast, too soon, risks a resurgence in infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

“We are doing everything we can to back hospitality as it prepares to reopen, including offering pubs brand new Restart Grants worth up to £18,000 – part of our much wider £352bn support package.”