• Louize Small

Plymouth Café Takes Defiant Stand Against 'Unlawful' Lockdown.

The owners of a family-run café in Plymouth decided it was business as usual when the nation entered a second lockdown on the 5th of November. In a video statement posted on their Facebook page, Finla stated that there is no lawful basis for the government to demand that businesses shut their doors or limit their offerings to the public.

Almost immediately, seemingly tipped-off by busybodies in the area, Environmental Health officers stormed their premises, along with officers from Devon & Cornwall Police. In an act of brazen intimidation, Joy Slaughter from Plymouth City Council insisted they complied with regulations or face hefty fines. One of the owners (who wish to remain nameless here) duly handed over a list of counter-demands, which he insisted were met before they followed any guidelines.

In a conversation with the Light, [name redacted] said, “We have asked for proof that the virus exists but none has yet been given.” Indeed, under the Freedom of Information Act, several people have written to Public Health England to request evidence that the Sars-Cov2 virus exists and causes Covid-19 but the response was a very telling, ‘we don’t have any.’

The most shocking thing of all has been the reaction from people in Plymouth. Trawling through the 1,500 comments on Plymouth Live, we get a disturbing snapshot of the toxic views held by many in regard to Finla’s controversial stance – one man said that if he was a woman, he would go down there and “smash their teeth in.” Another commenter urged people to ‘go down there and smash the windows.” A number of people expressed their wishes that the owners and their families be “blacklisted by the NHS.” Is this not incitement to hatred and violence?

Not all of the comments were bad, though, with many messages of support and gratitude. One customer said, ‘these guys are heroes!’ Finla say they felt a need to stay open to remain a vital community hub for those seeking connection and conversation in a warm and welcoming environment. “We know our customers very well. We pour our heart and soul into our business and work hard to forge relationships with our regulars, some of whom live alone and don’t get out much. We know them by name, we know their stories, and we know that it is essential for people to stay socially engaged in these testing times.”

The café has been verified a Covid-safe environment by the local council. There was some controversy in the first lockdown as some staff members were exempt from wearing face coverings. The owners maintain that they are powerless to enforce guidelines on face masks, as there are legitimate reasons why some people can’t wear them. The same goes for customers; any business challenging a person’s exemption is liable for a fine of up to £9,000 but most people are unaware of this because the information is not publicised.

In their statement, available to view on their Facebook page, they make very valid points, including that the virus was downgraded in March from a ‘Highly Contagious Infectious Disease,’ to one with a similar severity to flu. They also ask why this is of greater importance than the longer-term financial ruin and impact on mental health that many people in the country now face.

A ‘GoFundMe’ page has been set up by supporters to assist in paying the fines but the owners are determined to fight them. For the moment, they have taken the (perhaps sensible) decision to offer takeaway service only, while they review their position.

Should you wish to donate to their cause, you can do so by visiting gofundme and searching for ‘Help Finla Win Their Fight!’

(c) Louize Small, November 2020

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