A barber in Wanstead has been fined £100 for placing two chairs outside his shop so elderly customers could wait while social distancing.
Wanstead Hairdressers in Woodbine Place, a family-run business that has been operating since 1969, was fined for blocking the pavement after a Redbridge Council officer spotted the chairs on July 21.
Owner Paul Michaelides says he provided the chairs for elderly customers, who may have to wait outside for long periods due to distancing legislation.
He criticised the council’s “overzealous attitude” given the width of the pavement – around three metres – and the lack of a way to appeal the decision.
He said: “I find it shameful that the council has sent me this fine in the post without even considering the reasoning behind the chairs being there.
“We are a very small shop and so our waiting customers can no longer wait inside due to social distancing rules.
“Most of our customers are elderly as we have been here for so many years so we offered them a chair outside.
“The two chairs were put up against the shop window so as not to inconvenience pedestrians.
“I want other shop owners to know the council’s attitude to small businesses who have taken a huge financial hit and are struggling to find their feet again, in such difficult times, doing their best to adhere to safe social distance practices.”
Responding on August 6, a spokesperson for Redbridge Council said it “would be unfair” to businesses that pay for a pavement licence if it “simply turned a blind eye to those who haven’t done the same”.
They said: “”The new pavement licence is now available at a much-reduced price for businesses in the hospitality sector.
“With that in mind, we’ve been promoting the new licence to local hospitality businesses so they can provide outdoor seating, which will help them drum up further business and ensure social distancing guidelines are followed.
“It’s important there is a level playing field for businesses in the borough, as it would be unfair to those that have paid for the licence if we simply turned a blind eye to those who hadn’t done the same. That’s what happened in this particular case.
“It’s also essential that we ensure the public highway is kept free of any obstructions, to ensure safe and sustainable use of the paved areas – particularly for people with accessibility issues.”
They added that the council has “offered a huge amount of support to local businesses”, including more than £40 million in grant funding, and that the business is welcome to appeal “if they feel the fine is unfair”.
A spokesperson for the business said previously that they were informed there was no point appealing if they did not have a licence.