A SEAFRONT business had to tell its customers not to sit down while they had their take-away drinks after council officers warned it could be fined £10,000.

Urban Reef said it had “misinterpreted the rules” when it moved benches from its restaurant terrace onto the beach at Boscombe.

BCP Council environmental health officers and Covid marshals visited more than 100 businesses during a weekend crackdown to ensure lockdown rules were being followed.

However, Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood has consulted the health secretary and believes Urban Reef's benches should not have fallen foul of the rules.

Owner Mark Cribb posted on Facebook: “We broke the rules. We had a few pensioners sitting in twos outside earlier, and a couple of mums with young kids.

“Whilst you are welcome to sit on the sand, we misinterpreted the rules and thought we'd move a few of our benches away from our closed terrace onto the beach for you.

“We put them quite a few metres apart trying to fox that pesky Covid. Turns out this means we can be fined £10,000 for being in breach of the regulations so we'd just like to publicly say 'We're sorry'.”

Mr Cribb told the Daily Echo that he had been warned by an environmental health officer about the possibility of a fine.

“The chap that came was very pleasant and polite but it does amaze me how they could come out so fast to enforce things like this,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking that we’re having to go round telling pensioners and other customers to stand up.”

In the Facebook post, he added: “It's been a tough enough year. A £10,000 fine would really hurt. We've only sold about 36 cups of tea today. We'd struggle to make the maths work.”

He raised the issue with Mr Ellwood, who made enquiries with health secretary Matt Hancock and said: “My understanding is that public spaced seating – such as on the beach – which remains open to the public is within the interpretation of the new lockdown rules.”

A statement from Cllr May Haines, the council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Since the start of lockdown, our officers have been visiting local businesses to provide advice and guidance on the current rules, including who can safely remain open and the types of services they can continue to offer at this time.

“While takeaway service are permitted, the government has prohibited the consumption of food or drink on business premises. This guidance specifically states that ‘premises’ includes any adjacent areas were seating is made available for customers to eat or drink at.

“We have therefore advised that the seating that was supplied at this location is not permitted under the current government rules.

“Business owners and residents may contact the council directly if they have any uncertainty or concerns. We will continue to support, make visits, provide advice and will only consider issuing fines as a last resort.’’