The cinema’s owner vowed she would ‘take a stand’ against the new measures – which apply to cinemas, theatres and concert halls – calling them ‘discriminatory and unlawful’
Image: MEDIA WALES)
The owner of an independent cinema refusing to enforce coronavirus rules has been fined £5,000 and told to close.
Cinema & Co, the Swansea cinema owned by Anna Redfern, has been ordered to shut by Swansea Council and Welsh Government officials, after the venue said it would not enforce the Covid pass scheme.
Ms Redfern vowed she would “take a stand” against the new measures – which apply to cinemas, theatres and concert halls – calling them “discriminatory and unlawful”.
The 45-year-old argued that there was no such rule that applied to customers across the border in England.
When the Welsh Government announced earlier this month that Covid passes would be mandatory for entry into cinemas, Ms Redfern told her Facebook followers the new rules were the “final nail in the coffin” of what she sees as the “killing [of] the entertainment industry”.
The Castle Street venue has since been issued with a closure order by Swansea Council, telling the owners to shut for a maximum of 28 days.
Anna Redfern/WALES NEWS SERVICE)
Ms Redfern refused to comply with the order and defiantly re-opened the next day. She argued the action against her was “unlawful” and she needed to provide for her family.
The council then took the case to Swansea Magistrates’ Court, in a bid to force the cinema to shut for a specified period.
At a hearing on Tuesday, solicitor Lee Reynolds argued that Cinema & Co had clearly ignored the rules.
He said: “The reality is we say, the way these premises are being run, is as if Covid simply does not exist.
Cinema & Co/WALES NEWS SERVICE)
“The important point we rely upon, whilst it is accepted we will never be able to prove that the premises are infected, they may be infected.
“Businesses are given directions to minimise the risk of infection and contamination, and the way these premises are being run means they may be contaminated.
“This is not a theoretical risk, the officers have attended, seen the lack of signage, lack of anti-bacterial hand wash. It is a real risk instead of a theoretical one.
“It is based on the eye witness account of officers who have attended and can, on oath, put forward a position why these premises could be infected or contaminated due to the way they are run.”
Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures)
However, Ms Redfern hit back – insisting her business was safe and claimed that the action against her had been “unlawful”.
She said: “They are trying to close me down unlawfully and each time they have turned up I haven’t been there and it’s just incorrect. I don’t believe the allegations are correct at all.
“Public Health Act – I have a right to run my business. All I have done is give my customers the freedom of choice whether they want to come to my business or not. The council’s unlawful closure is having a ripple effect on the local community.”
However, Ms Redfern’s appeal for District Judge Neal Thomas to dismiss the case was rejected.
He said: “I’m satisfied the local authority’s application has been properly brought under the Public Health Act and I grant the application as requested.
“It’s clear from the evidence the local authority is trying to do no more than their job. To try and reduce the risk of transmission of a disease.”
The outcome of his ruling does not mean Ms Redfern has a criminal conviction against her name, but it does mean that the council’s enforcement action against her was legally correct.
And as a result, it means that Cinema & Co must comply with Covid regulations – effectively meaning it will have to shut its doors, as per the council’s original order.
Solicitor Mr Reynolds said that if Cinema & Co remained open then an application for contempt of court would be made. He said those who were found to be in contempt of court can face a jail sentence.
Ms Redfern was told to pay the council’s legal costs of £5,265.
She declined to comment as she left court.
A council spokesman said: “We welcome the decision today by the district judge, which we hope will encourage the owner of Cinema & Co to carry out the necessary work to protect staff and customers.
“During this entire process, the Council did not want to close down this business – indeed we have provided millions of pounds of funding, help and support so businesses can operate safely during the pandemic.
“We want Cinema & Co open and trading, the same as the majority of businesses in Swansea and Wales, who are following the rules and are doing all they can to keep people safe.
“We will continue to offer support and advice to Cinema & Co to ensure those measures are in place and that they can operate safely.
“The coronavirus virus is still with us and significant concerns remain about the potential impact of the new Omicron variant.
“The measures and regulations currently in place are vital to help slow the spread of the virus and to protect the NHS and social care.
“We hope Cinema & Co will comply with the court order and follow all of the Covid safety measures.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.