A BURNLEY restaurant owner has opened up about the increase in verbal abuse that staff members have faced since pubs reopened.

Patrick O'Reilly, general manager of The New Waggoners in Burnley, said staff have been left in tears after facing abuse from disgruntled customers who disagree with social distancing rules.

Posting to Facebook, Mr O’Reilly discussed an incident where a group of people booked two separate tables and were told they could not sit with each other as this went against social distancing rules.

Patrick wrote: “I have dithered about the concept of airing dirty laundry in public but feel I need to show what we are up against on a daily basis at present in the industry and demonstrate my 100% commitment to my colleagues.

“Four members of our team (myself included) took unnecessary abuse yesterday.

“We are here to offer customer service, not for you to take your frustrations out on.

“Despite being told more than once on the telephone that this reservation could not take place we still received abuse in the restaurant on the evening and continue to do so online.

“What has happened to the "in this together" and "be kind" mottos?”

Patrick told The Lancashire Telegraph this incident has taken its toll and he “doesn’t want to smile at work today” because of the level of abuse he received.

“Unfortunately, you need to have thick skin in this industry at the minute,” he added.

However, this isn’t an isolated incident and Patrick said staff have been facing situations like this “every day”.

He said: “I don’t want to seem like a complainer, as we are over the moon to be open.

“99.999 per cent of our customers are lovely - it’s just the minority who are spoiling it for everyone.

“I have had two members of staff reduced to tears over the weekend after customers were abusive to them - and it’s not fair.”

He explained that many of the complaints and abusive words come from customers who “aren’t happy with the social distancing measure in place.”

He added: “They want tables to be pulled together.

“I’ve had people try to book a table for 30 and they give you earache for turning them away.

“It’s abuse - to be shouted at, sworn at and hung up on because you can’t have what you want is abuse.”

Patrick added that it is just another level of pressure for staff who are already experiencing long shifts and an increased workload.

He explained: “A number of staff are isolating and we are experiencing weekend level trade on a Tuesday - there is a lot of extra pressure put on the staff.

“Some are working 80 plus hours a week and getting abuse from some customers on top of that.”

Is staff abuse becoming an industry-wide problem?

According to Patrick, “this is an industry problem - not a New Waggoners problem.”

Unfortunately, The New Waggoners isn’t the only pub to report levels of abuse since lockdown restrictions lifted.

The owner of The Butlers Arms in Pleasington made the decision to shut for two weeks after seeing them struggling to deal with a small number of difficult customers.

Mr O'Reilly said he can understand why they made this decision and can understand what others pubs and restaurants in the county are going through.

He added that due to the increase in Covid rates in the region and “the way some customers are behaving, we actually hope the government don’t relax any more restrictions.”

However, Patrick added that the team are trying to remain positive and are ready to welcome customers who will respect staff.

He explained: “I have the best team in the world. Without them, The Waggoners Inn is just a building.

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“I want to give a massive thank you to the regular customers- and those who offered words of support on our latest Facebook post.

“We are open, we are positive, we are happy but please respect us.”