United Kingdom

Pub in Leicestershire applies to register as a CHURCH in order to get around Tier 3 lockdown rules

A pub has applied to become a place of worship in a bid to reopen despite being under Tier 3 lockdown restrictions.

At present The New Baron of Hinckley in Hinckley, Leicestershire, can only open for takeaways and deliveries.

But places of worship are allowed to open for services and private prayer across all three tiers of the coronavirus restrictions.

The Elmesthorpe Brewery Company, which owns the pub, has applied for the venue to be registered as a religious meeting place under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855.

It comes after The 400 Rabbits Tequila and Mezcal Cocktail Bar in Nottingham did the same thing. 

At present The New Baron of Hinckley in Hinckley, Leicestershire, can only open for takeaways and deliveries

In a bid to 'point out hypocrisy,' of Covid rules, owner James Aspell, 34, has applied for the 400 Rabbits to become 'The Church of The Four Hundred Rabbits'. 

If The New Baron of Hinckley's application is successful, the pub would be christened The Church of New Baron, with patrons to be known as New Baronials, while owner Nirad Solanki, or Father Niri, would lead the flock.

Bar staff would be known as Baronnuns, with the faithful to be served Holy Ale and Niri Chicken as part of services. 

The would-be church has also pledged to provide one-to-one confession rooms with Father Niri, who said he had the divine inspiration for the idea.

The Elmesthorpe Brewery Company, which owns the pub, has applied for the venue to be registered as a religious meeting place under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. Pictured: Owner Nirad Solanki

Mr Solanki said: 'It was just me trying to think outside the box. I think it's the only way for our regular bread and butter people to meet up.

'Our pub is the epicentre of Hinckley. A lot of people depend on it, especially the older people.

'I thought, if churches and synagogues can open, why not do this?

'It's not really financially motivated, we just want to be able to get out and see people.'

If The New Baron of Hinckley's application is successful, the pub would be christened The Church of New Baron, with patrons to be known as New Baronials, while owner Nirad Solanki, or Father Niri, would lead the flock

The former Wetherspoon pub relaunched after the first Covid-19 lockdown with a flame-grilled chicken menu, using flavours inspired by Mr Solanki's culinary background.

He believes it is crucial for pubs and hospitality venues to be allowed to open now, during the busy period in the build up to Christmas, as the early months of the year are always very quiet.

Mr Solanki said many closed pubs will shut for good before Christmas if they are not allowed to open or if more Government help is not provided.

The pub boss took on The New Baron, on Regent Street in August 2018, relaunching it with a new look in October of that year. 

James Aspell, owner of 400 Rabbits in Nottingham, has applied for his tequila bar to become a place of a worship so that it can welcome visitors when Tier 3 lockdown rules come into effect on Wednesday 

Mr Aspell, of the 400 Rabbits in Nottingham, is in need of people to sign up to his congregation, and he is offering members a choice of becoming either a 'bunny believer' or a 'reverend of the righteous rabbits'.

He said: 'The intention of this is to be a joke but it comes from a serious place.

'With the new restrictions we're forced to close and it could be months before we can reopen. We don't have a food offering so even if we were in Tier 2, we couldn't open.

'We feel like we've been targeted unfairly, to an extent and it seems wrong. Everything from gyms to massage parlours can stay open and even the

'Christmas markets are happening - that was the point when I thought, this is ridiculous. 

Tier 3 regulations dictate that clubs and bars are only allowed to serve takeaway drinks, but places of worship can welcome visitors 

'So we have sent in an application to register as a place of worship.' James, who opened the bar five years ago, said the application has been sent to the registrar general in Nottingham for consideration.'

Government guidance for Tier 3 areas states: 'Hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha venues), pubs, cafes and restaurants are closed – they are permitted to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.'  

From this week, The Church of Four Hundred Rabbits will be signing people up to its congregation through a new website.

The Nottingham bar has made its application to register as a place of worship, and is now seeking out members for its congregation

Despite the jovial nature of the application, he said it 'points out the hypocrisy' of the coronavirus measures.

He added: 'This time of year it's usually all guns blazing but instead I'm sat at home putting my Christmas decorations up. 

'We have no intention of opening unless the application is granted or when restrictions are lifted.

'If we were to open we'd follow government guidelines and I don't think we'd be selling alcohol. We might be able to adapt in a different way and have some fun with it.

'We're not doing this to offend anybody or break any rules.'

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