Coronavirus: Hastings cafe closes as Covid-19 testing station appears

The testing station viewed from the cafe back doorImage copyright
Stephen Kelleher

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Mr Kelleher said he did not feel it was safe for customers to dine so close to the testing station

A cafe has been “forced to close” after a Covid-19 testing station was set up outside.

Stephen Kelleher, manager of eat@ the Stade in Hastings, said the area outside his cafe had been taped off and was being patrolled by soldiers in facemasks.

Mr Kelleher apologised to customers on Facebook, adding: “We cannot tell you how sad, angry and scared we are.”

Hastings Borough Council said: “It was the only suitable space we could find.”

The station was set up to offer testing for three days with a possible return in a few weeks “depending on need”.

But Mr Kelleher said cafe staff, “some of whom are already anxious due to health conditions”, had gone home, with one in tears.

“We have no outside space [as a result] and do not feel it is safe to operate inside dining so close to this area,” he said.

“And we are pretty convinced the view of soldiers in facemasks in a hazard-taped no-go zone would put off all but those with the most dystopian appetites.”

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The cafe sits at the new Stade open space in Hastings Old Town

Local residents have expressed sympathy and shock at the news.

Responding to the Facebook post, Ann Bellerose said: “Ridiculous, so potential unwell people are walking from car parks to be tested, possibly passing the virus on to others as they go. That’s just scary!”

Steve Wilkins added: “While I commend your decision to close for the safety of your staff and customers, you really shouldn’t have your hand forced by such a ludicrous decision made by the council.”

Kevin Boorman, marketing & major projects manager for Hastings Borough Council, said they were approached “by the military” looking for a site.

He explained: “It had to fit certain criteria – a large open space, with good access and public toilets. And it had to be available.

“It was the only suitable space we could find.”

He said he had been down to see Mr Kelleher, who he described as “very cross”.

“I’m very disappointed. It’s not what we wanted. We never expected them to close,” he added.

“It is needed, so people don’t have to travel miles to be tested. It has to go somewhere.”

BBC News