‘Carpet-gate’ breaks out in Barry | News

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

– Local People

by Sam HallReporter

A BIZARRE row has broken out between the owner of pub chain Wetherspoon and Barry Town Council over a carpet.

Tim Martin, the pub group’s owner, clashed with council officials after his company laid a carpet featuring Barry’s coat of arms in the town’s Sir Samuel Romilly watering-hole.

Councillors demanded the carpet be ripped up because they felt it was “disrespectful” as punters had to walk over the coat of arms to get to the bar and toilet.

However Mr Martin refused to remove the carpet – which was fitted as part of a £700,000 revamp – as it would be “a waste of money.”

And the town council has sought legal advice on ‘carpet-gate’ with a meeting between the authority and Wetherspoon’s solicitors set to take place in a few weeks’ time.

One possible option to resolve the argument could be to take the case to the Court of Chivalry – a court set up in the 14th century to settle disputes involving coats of arms. The court has sat just once since 1737.

Wetherspoon boss Mr Martin said: “The carpet has been laid in good faith. This refurbishment has shown our commitment to the town, its residents and our employees.

“The crest was chosen because Wetherspoon, unlike many other pub operators, always likes to reflect the history of the town and that is what we have done in terms of the carpet, historical photos and information in the pubs.”

He added: “The town council requested that we remove the carpet. We think that this is a waste of money, especially since the design of the carpet was chosen with the best of intentions.

“However, if an order is obtained from the Court of Chivalry, which is the correct legal process (this action has only been invoked once in the last 300 years, as we understand it), then we will be happy to comply with the order of the court.”

He admitted that he hoped “legal shenanigans” could be avoided.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon explained: “The view expressed by local customers is that the carpet is regarded as a tribute to Barry, where Wetherspoon has successfully traded for many years.

“It seems absurd that a genuine attempt to produce something of local interest is being used for childish political posturing.

“The company has no desire for pointless legal action, especially in an obscure court that has only convened once (in 1954) since 1737.”

It’s claimed a group of Plaid Cymru councillors are apparently pushing to take the national pub chain to court with Conservative colleagues urging them to have a major rethink.

Cllr Vincent Bailey, leader of the Conservatives, said it was time to put a stop to the “nonsense” and get on with more important work.

He said: “Taking Wetherspoon to court would be an absolute waste of money and the public backlash would be deserved.

“Frankly, Barry residents expect us to be concentrating on more serious things – and whilst some Plaid councillors seem to be gunning for legal action, it makes much more sense to come to a compromise.”

Cllr Bailey added: “We are talking about a significant local employer and a popular pub. This could be resolved easily and that is why I have called for a special meeting of the town council so that we can put a stop to this nonsense, get on with our lives and start working on things that matter to our residents.”

However leader of the town council’s Plaid Cymru group, Cllr Shirley Hodges, hit back: “It was a unanimous decision by the town council not to give permission to use the Barry Town Crest. I am surprised that Cllr Bailey has now changed his mind, this decision was only made a few weeks ago.

“Plaid have asked for proper processes to be followed and I think this is the most sensible way forward. The town council has not made a decision to take the pub chain to court, so the request by senior Tory politicians for the council to ‘reconsider’ is very bizarre.

“Perhaps if Cllr Bailey attended town council meetings a bit more than the 15 per cent he managed last year, he would be better placed to inform people of facts and not fiction.”

South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies has also voiced his opinion on the unusual situation.

He said: “I hope Barry Town Council will reflect and judge that they have far better things to get on with and worry about than taking on a popular Wetherspoon boozer over a piece of carpet!

“Wasting taxpayer cash on this exercise is daft and I hope Barry Town Council will reconsider this decision.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Mr Martin thought anti-Brexit party Plaid Cymru were pushing for action because of his pro-Brexit views.

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