A DISAPPOINTED hotel and restaurant owner says he feels “very, very sad” after being quizzed by officers for being open minutes after the coronavirus curfew.

Jason Smedley is the owner of the Royal Hotel and My Big Fat Greek Taverna, which are both located in Marine Parade East, in Clacton.

Since the start of the pandemic, Mr Smedley and his dedicated team have abided by any restrictions placed on the hospitality sector by the Government.

For several weeks, they even provided frontline workers with a free place to stay in a bid to help prevent their families from potentially being exposed to Covid-19.

Earlier this month, however, Boris Johnson imposed a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants, following a worrying increase in coronavirus cases.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Mr Smedley now says he feels let down after being interrogated by police officers for staying open less than ten minutes after 10pm while a family checked their bill.

“I am very, very disappointed with Clacton police, because we cause zero trouble for our town,” he said.

“It was seven minutes passed we had one family just checking over a bill, and an officer questioned me three times in front of my staff and customers.

“We had customers waiting for cabs outside and they were asking me why there was so many people inside and outside.

“Then we were told we ‘looked open’, so is it an offence now to look open while we all tidy up?

“The police officer was just rude, and at a time when we are all complying, but also struggling.”

Mr Smedley has since made clear that he does not believe this isolated incident is a true reflection of how the force usually operates.

Braintree and Witham Times:

But, at a time when local businesses are more up against then ever, he has asked for a degree a compassion and leniency as they try to adapt.

He added: “Closing every venue at the same time is an idiot move, it is creating havoc for everyone and makes the whole original idea behind it pointless, and then you get treated like this.

“We help the community, and our establishment constantly supports the police in keeping our seaside as trouble free as possible.

“So, it is very, very sad, but this is not a rant at the amazing job the police do in general.”

A spokesman for Essex Police has now confirmed no fines were issued as a result of the incident, but they did remind Mr Smedley of the new restrictions. 

"At around 10.15pm on Saturday September 26, officers in Clacton saw that a local restaurant had its doors open and was playing music, giving the appearance that it was open.

"The officers went to speak to the restaurant owner and saw between 20 and 30 people still inside the premises, sitting at tables and dancing.

"The officers were informed that all the occupants were staff members.

"Officers advised the restaurant owner of the restrictions in place and asked for the restaurant to be closed. No fines were issued.

"We know that the last six months have been really challenging and we want to say thank you to everyone across Essex who’ve been doing their bit to keep each other safe from COVID-19."