The warning from Middlesbrough Council's Public Protection Service follows a spate of flagrant rule breaches after Monday's easing of lockdown restrictions.
While the vast majority are doing their bit and helping to keep people safe, a small number of venues have been found to be failing to implement necessary health protection measures which has raised concerns that coronavirus could easily spread.
The Council's Covid-19 Response Team visited shops and hospitality venues on Monday (April 12) as the new rules came into effect to provide advice and guidance to protect both customers and staff.
Pubs, restaurants and other licensed venues are now able to serve food and drink but at outdoor tables only, and are required to collect contact details from all customers.
Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council's Head of Public Protection, said: "The re-opening of all shops, services and the hospitality sector has led to a significant increase in the number people visiting the town and we have witnessed large queues at a number of businesses.
"The vast majority of outlets have been managing customer numbers effectively and are adhering to the current rules which are there to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"Sadly our officers also visited a number of licensed venues on Monday evening where they found a significant lack of management leading to breaches of the coronavirus laws and an increased risk of spreading the disease."
Lockdown rule breaches included:
- poorly managed and overcrowded queues
- groups of more than six at tables or standing up drinking and tables too close together
- drinks served to customers at the bar when the law requires food and drink to be ordered, served and consumed only to customers seated outdoors
- customers wandering around indoors without face coverings
- failure to collect customer contact details using the NHS Test and Trace QR code or manual recording
Mrs Hedgley added: "To reduce the need for people to raise their voice, which is known to increase the risk of transmitting coronavirus, it is strongly advised that music is kept low, but in some businesses music levels were so high that speaking without raised voices was not possible.
"We wrote to all licensed venues ahead of Monday to give them advice on what they needed to do to open safely and we have been working with businesses to guide them on the new rules.
"Unfortunately it was clear that some had not adequately prepared or were simply overwhelmed by the volume of customers on the evening and did not have sufficient numbers of staff to ensure the venue could be operated in line with health protection requirements."
The Council's Public Protection Service - in partnership with Cleveland Police - will continue to visit businesses to offer advice and to check compliance with the health protection laws.
Appropriate enforcement action will be taken against those found to be breaking the law and risking the spread of coronavirus, including fixed penalty notices of £1,000 per offence, legal action and the potential review of premises licences.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Lockdown's been devastating for the town centre and the hospitality businesses that are its lifeblood.
"They're champing at the bit to throw open their doors again, and we'll be there to help them every step of the way.
"But we can't be complacent - we haven't beaten coronavirus and we can't take our eye off the ball.
"So it's more important than ever that everyone - members of the public and businesses alike - continue to follow the rules which include table service to groups of no more than six people, using the NHS test and trace system, maintaining social distancing, and wearing face coverings.
"And when you get the call, get the jab, as the vaccine is the best way to prevent serious illness and deaths related to Covid-19, and our way out of the pandemic."
- For the latest local updates and information, visit middlesbrough.gov.uk/covid19
For information on local help and support, visit www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/helpboro
For advice for clinically extremely vulnerable residents call Middlesbrough Council's support line on 01642 729777
The latest advice from Government and Public Health England can be found at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus