Lambeth council today (25 March) warned that it is taking “firm action” against a small minority of local businesses breaching Covid restrictions.
It stressed its willingness to support the “vast majority” of businesses observing government guidance.
Last week a West Norwood café was suspected of breaking the regulations by allowing customers to consume food and alcohol on the premises.
The council said an enforcement team “observed suspicious activity” and informed the Metropolitan police. A joint visit by police and council took place the next day.
The council said the café owner initially claimed there were no customers inside, but after a search of the premises, including a rear outdoor area, a dozen people were found hiding behind a fence in a neighbouring garden.
Police escorted all 12 people from the premises and they were each fined £200 for breaching Covid-19 regulations. The owners were fined £1,000.
The council stressed that it is continuing to support businesses to follow Covid-19 restrictions until rules are non-essential traders are relaxed on 12 April.
“We currently remain under National lockdown: Stay at Home restrictions as Covid-19 remains a serious threat,” said a spokesperson.
“The overwhelming majority of businesses in Lambeth have stuck to the guidelines, followed advice and done their upmost to keep people safe.
“But where breaches have been found, Lambeth council has taken firm action including issuing warning letters and fixed penalty notices for persistent rule breaking.”
Between 15 and 21 March, the council visitedt 262 businesses ranging from takeaways and corner shops to supermarkets and cafes.
A total of 28 premises were found to be breaching Covid-19 regulations, resulting in six fixed penalty notices.
Enforcement officers also issued two prohibition notices and a further seven warning letters during the visits.
Council wardens visited parks and open spaces to ensure people were sticking to social distancing rules.
Cllr Jacqui Dyer, council cabinet member for jobs, skills and community safety, said: “It is important that businesses feel supported during these unprecedented times.
“But equally it is vital they also do their bit to limit the spread of the virus.
“The council does not set out to hinder businesses or issue warning letters, but if we find premises breaking the rules we will not hesitate to take action.
“Everyone in Lambeth is looking forward to the gradual lifting of restrictions in the coming months, but we cannot allow any activities that may jeopardise the health of others.
“Our message to residents is clear – stay at home unless you have to go to work, get tested and stick to the rules to protect your friends, family and neighbours.”