A BINGO hall has come under fire for opening its bar for players – despite strict coronavirus measures across the borough forcing all hospitality venues to move to takeaway only.

Mecca Bingo on Ormrod Street faced a lot of backlash after advertising that their bar would be open for all customers at the site yesterday evening.

The town centre establishment is legally allowed to open for games, but cannot serve food or drinks that can be consumed in the hall.

Cllr Hilary Fairclough, executive cabinet member for environment regulatory services, said: “As soon as we found out that Mecca Bingo was advertising the opening of its bar, against the local restrictions, we took action.

“The premises were visited by a member of our licensing team and the manager was told they were acting against the local restrictions. A council officer also contacted the company’s head office and who confirmed they are no longer selling food or drink.

“Our officers have been out with the police again on Saturday 12 September and will be out again tonight visiting businesses to make sure they comply."

Last Tuesday, Matt Hancock announced strict new coronavirus measures which would take effect in Bolton immediately.

Bars, cafes, and restaurants were only allowed to open for takeaway orders, and most businesses were told to close between the hours of 10pm - 5am.

Many firms have followed the advice, but on Friday evening a taskforce between Bolton Council and Greater Manchester Police fined four takeaways – LA Pizza on Crompton Way, Grillicious on Tonge Moor Road, Allens Fried Chicken on Chorley Old Road and Pizza Corner on Higher Market Street, Farnworth – for being open after 10pm.

Scott's Barbers in Horwich was also shut down after council officers received "a number of complaints" about the business.

Cllr Fairclough added: “The rules are quite clear in Bolton that bars, pubs and restaurants must close and only provide a takeaway service if they are able to do so. While bingo halls can remain open this does not apply to the bar and food areas and I’m disappointed that the company decided to open their facility.

“The majority of businesses have taken their responsibilities seriously and are following the regulations. Unfortunately, there are some who are choosing to break the clear rules.

“Be warned, we will continue to do spot checks. Bolton residents can play an important role in keeping us all safe. If you believe a business is not following the proper regulations, report it to us and we will close down those who are putting lives at risk.”

A spokesperson for Mecca Bingo said: “We recently received guidance from our sponsor department in government, DCMS, that, on account of the specific licensing regulations of bingo venues, we were able to continue to offer food and drinks to our customers, and we therefore did so in good faith.

"The local council’s interpretation of bingo club licensing is evidently different to that, and we fully respect their decision and have, of course, complied with this latest interpretation.

"We firmly reject any suggestion that we have acted irresponsibly, and would reiterate that the safety of our colleagues and customers remains our number one concern and we are very much looking forward to continuing to provide a great and ultra-safe bingo experience for our loyal and understanding customers in Mecca Bolton.”