Café owners ‘gutted’ after council closes outdoor dining booths

A café which created outdoor booths and partitioning to abide by Covid rules has been told to close its garden dining booths.

Charlie and Kate Snell, who run Bread & Butter Café in River Street, Truro, say they are “gutted” to have to close the al fresco area to the rear of the premises after Cornwall Council stated it contravened new Government rules.

The couple installed booths and partitioning outside following the first lockdown last year, but were visited by the council after reopening on Monday, as lockdown eased, and told to close the booths while people were dining, meaning they can’t keep the outdoor area open.

The café had 200 people a week booked to enjoy the tucked-away spot in the centre of the city. The bookings have now had to be cancelled.

The couple were told that all outdoor dining areas should adhere to new rules which apply to smoking shelters, meaning 50 per cent of the sides of booths need to be open. Bread and Butter’s garden booths are 25 per cent open, with wooden slats on three sides.

You can stay up to date on the top news and events near you with CornwallLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page.

Cornwall Council has said it hasn’t ordered the closure of the outside area but told the owners they can’t use the booths as they don’t adhere to legislation. The Snells argue this basically forces the closure of the area.

Charlie told CornwallLive: “It’s really frustrating as we’ve spent time and money putting them in as we thought it was the right thing – it was the right thing for all of 2020 – and now the rule change from the Government means apparently it’s not the right thing.

“I don’t blame the council, I blame the Government as it seems to be a one-size-fits-all approach.

“This [the booths] would be a really good solution, I think, to allow people to come out and eat again, enjoy themselves and open up the economy. That’s badly what needs to happen.”

He added: “I know there are places all over the country that have put in greenhouses, pods and yurts because in 2020 that would have been fine, but now with the rule change it isn’t, which is very frustrating.”

“The café has had 200 people a week booking to come in here because they all considered it a safe environment and we’ve now had to cancel all those people, which, after eight months of closure, isn’t what we wanted.”

The couple took to Instagram to let their loyal customers know about the closure.

“We are really sorry to tell you that we have had to close our garden and booths at Bread & Butter and offer takeaway only for the next month.

“Although we’ve spent time and money building new booths and adding partitioning to keep customers safe, it turns out that with a recent law change the council have now deemed them not open air enough! Frustrated doesn’t even begin to explain how we feel about this new rule.

“We are sorry and we are gutted. After eight months closed over this pandemic we were so excited about welcoming you back to our garden and, to be honest, to start taking some money again. We really hope to see you for takeaways – we’ve got some cracking new food for you (today we sold all 40 of the delicious sourdough toasted sandwiches we put on display).”

After customers told them to appeal, the café replied: “We’ve done that. ‘Rules is rules’ I think is the general consensus!”

Some of the comments of support included:

“This is so disappointing for you guys and so ridiculous in terms of people being able to use common sense. How frustrating!”

“So sorry to hear this! You have worked tirelessly to ensure safety and comfort! You guys are awesome and hopefully this will change very soon and you will be able to use that space!”

Charlie and Kate Snell were visited by Cornwall Council on Monday, April 12, and told to close their outdoor garden

“I can’t believe that, all those marquees that are going up and your garden isn’t ‘safe’.”

“Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that, what a nightmare! I can’t understand how your booths can possibly be considered ‘not open air enough’ It doesn’t make sense … but then again not many of the rules do these days!”

“This has made me so angry for you! I can go to my local supermarket and be surrounded by people that don’t have a clue about social distancing and yet an establishment like yours, with all the safety measures in place, is penalised. It’s wrong. They’re wrong.”

“That’s nuts! How more open air can those be!?”

Cornwall Council has been approached for a comment about the closure of the café’s outdoor area.

Bread & Butter’s takeaway is now open (9am to 2.30pm, Monday to Saturday) as is an online shop, selling brownies all over the country, and the outside seating area will reopen next month as lockdown eases again.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Cornwall Council’s Covid Enforcement Team has been working closely with businesses in the lead up to the easing of restrictions.

“Many businesses have had to make significant changes in order to reopen at this time and in recent months we have been providing advice and support to help them do this safely, and in accordance with the current restrictions.

“Under Step 2 of the Government’s lockdown roadmap, hospitality venues can serve customers food and drink in outside areas. However, the Government has set strict criteria regarding shelters at these premises. To comply with the national regulations at this time, shelters, such as gazebos, booths and marquees, must not have sides that enclose more than 50% of the structure. This is referred to as the 50% rule.

“While we appreciate this is frustrating for some businesses, we have to offer a consistent approach to all premises and make sure they are following the Government’s criteria.

“Cornwall Council has not ordered Bread & Butter to close its outside area. However, the booths at do not comply with the legislation and we have advised the business owners that they should not be used at this time.

Businesses can find the latest Government advice and guidance for reopening outside areas safely on the gov.uk website.

More Truro news

Half-hour Primark queues as Truro traders see reopening surge

Police incident in Truro car park ‘safely resolved’

Cornwall Live – What’s On