Police footage shows over 30 people breaking Covid rules relaxing in secret shisha lounge
A video recorded by West Midlands Police shows the moment officers discovered more than 30 people “crammed” above a food shop in southeast Birmingham, playing cards and drinking beer. Police were responding to reports of Covid lockdown breaches when they found the 36 Sparkbrook residents – who appear to be mostly, if not all, men in the video – gathered at an illegal pop-up shisha bar in the Stratford Road area on Saturday night. The space had been converted into an “open plan shisha lounge”, police said, with one officer seen in the video describing the scene, and what attendees had been caught breaking stay-at-home guidelines to do.
“This premises is an active shisha lounge,” he tells officers not present via a radio. “We’ve got  people smoking, drinking and watching TV – so we’re going to need units to come down and enforce regulations, please.” Officers later said there was both beer and soft drinks on offer, card games being played and football on the TV inside the venue. All those in attendance were handed one of the new GBP800 fines, introduced by the government in January to punish people found at gatherings of more than 15, meaning police issued GBP28,800 worth of fines at this gathering alone.
Describing the incident as a “blatant breach” of rules designed “to keep people safe”, West Midlands assistant chief constable Mark Payne said: “Sadly some people are still not getting the message that we are in a pandemic which has killed thousands of people, and continues to kill hundreds daily. “Our officers are working long hours in really difficult circumstances to keep people safe, and blatant breaches such as these are really disheartening to see. Officers are having to go home to their families after breaking up large gatherings such as this, not knowing if they have contracted coronavirus while trying to protect others.
“We know that most people are sticking to the rules and we’re genuinely grateful for that. They are helping keeping themselves, their families, and the West Midlands as safe as possible.” Meanwhile on the official West Midlands Police Twitter page, the force appeared to ridicule the gathering by comparing what attendees were doing to the seriousness of the ongoing pandemic. “We handed out 36 of the new GBP800 fines to those who’d gathered to smoke, drink, play cards and watch football on TV, ignoring the lockdown in place to save lives,” it said in a post.
The force added that on Saturday night its officers responded to 74 separate calls of Covid breaches and issued 23 GBP200 fines, plus the 36 GBP800 fines, totalling GBP33,400.