BUSINESS bosses are pleading with the public to respect the rule of six, to help avoid the risk of being fined thousands of pounds during their recovery from lockdown.

The warning comes from Penny Lowen, co-owner of The Gleneagles Guesthouse, who says that businesses could be set back even further if people don’t follow the new rules, which were rolled out by the Government last Monday. 

It comes after a group of seven took to the tea room on Clifftown Parade, Westcliff, on Saturday – having originally booked as a group of four.

The law change now bans groups larger than six meeting anywhere socially indoors or outdoors, however this does not apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports.

Should people fail to comply, they can receive a £100 fine, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200.

Penny said: “The lady in question booked a table for four people, but they came as a group of seven and sat on two adjacent tables. It was really busy anyway, but they kept getting up and going over to one another and were moving around.

“It was only when the order went through to the kitchen that we realised there was that many in one group.

“We said to them you can’t do this and asked them to stop, but they got rather loud, started stomping about the place and started to demand a refund, before taking the food as takeaway and leaving.”

Penny has expressed how aggravating it is to have a minority breaking the rules when the team have worked so hard to keep people safe.

The 60-year-old continued: “We’ve reduced contact with our guests by leaving menus outside so they only have to come in once to order at the counter, guests come in and out one way so nobody passes each other and there’s hand sanitiser all over the place, so it’s frustrating.

“It is worrying as a business owner. Thankfully most of our customers are sensible and those sitting opposite at the time were so supportive.

“We could’ve been fined thousands – it’s a huge amount of money and comes as a chunk out of our recovery.”

Shah Ali, manager of the Tandoori Parlour, on Hart Road, Thundersley, added: “Although we haven’t had the numbers, we have got to go with what the government says to help prevent the spread.

“It’s horrible to hear this has happened. If we ignored the rules we could quadruple our bookings straight away, but we would never do that. It’s not responsible for us or our guests to ignore it.

“We’ve been here for 45 years – my family work here and we have customers of three or four generations visit. It’s not worth putting any of them at risk or a massive fine.

"Business owners now would rather let them leave than have seven people.”