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Pub landlord defends lockdown competitive eating contest as 'elite sport'

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
Craig Harker is the landlord of The George Pub and Grill in Stockton-on-Tees. (Reach)
Craig Harker is the landlord of The George Pub and Grill in Stockton-on-Tees. (Reach)

A pub landlord has defended describing a competitive eating contest that took place during lockdown as an “elite sport”.

The George Pub and Grill in Stockton held an event that saw five “athletes” attempt to eat the world’s hottest chillies on Saturday – two days after national lockdown restrictions in England were imposed.

Landlord Craig Harker was hit with a complaint that the event, that was part of the British Eating League, took place and broke guidelines.

But Harker said the pub had complied with all COVID-19 rules, including those about what is regarded as a sport and how the event was watched.

The George Pub and Grill held an event that saw five 'athletes' attempt to eat the world’s hottest chillies. (Reach)
The George Pub and Grill held an event that saw five 'athletes' attempt to eat the world’s hottest chillies. (Reach)

He said: "We ran it because the British Eating League is an elite sport. It's the highest league in competitive eating.

"Food Sports TV live-streamed the event and recorded it. We followed all the COVID guidelines.

"The local council got in touch and questioned it being a sport. There's no doubt in my mind. It is a sport. There's a winner, a loser, prizes and a league.

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"The venue was closed to the public and only the TV production crew and athletes were allowed on the premises.”

Government guidelines state that hospitality venues, including restaurants and pubs, must remain closed during the lockdown.

However, they are permitted to open for a small number of exempt activities, including for elite sportsmen and women to train and compete.

Food Sports TV live-streamed the chilli-eating event and recorded it. (Reach)
Food Sports TV live-streamed the chilli-eating event and recorded it. (Reach)

Stockton council said it had not taken any action against the pub.

A spokesperson said: "A complaint was received by our licensing team regarding the supply of food on the premises, which is currently restricted by national lockdown arrangements.

"Officers made inquiries and quickly established that no licensable activity took place on the premises at this time, and so no further licensing action will be taken."

Harker said the event had been watched by five million people online.

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