Couple criticise Peterborough bar for refusing to serve them coffee for homeless man sitting outside

A rough sleeper in St Peter's Arcade outside Argo Lounge
A rough sleeper in St Peter's Arcade outside Argo Lounge
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A couple have criticised a Peterborough bar for refusing to sell them a coffee to give to a homeless man who was sat outside.

Peterborough couple Lindsey Winson and Stuart Henderson said they will not return to Argo Lounge in Bridge Street unless it makes "a positive change" after the situation had left them "appalled."

Stuart and Lindsey

Stuart and Lindsey

They also claimed a rough sleeper told them staff tipped water into the neighbouring enclosed walkway of St Peter's Arcade at night to stop them sleeping there.

A spokesman for the bar has now apologised to the couple and said staff could have handled the situation much better, but added: "We do not have and would never condone a policy to refuse a customer who is being kind to those that are less fortunate."

Lindsey and Stuart went for breakfast at Argo Lounge at around 9.45am on Friday (February 2).

On her way to the toilet Lindsey (31) spotted a homeless man sitting outside in St Peter's Arcade and went to talk to him.

After giving some money to the man, aged in his 20s, she went inside and asked the manager if she could buy him a coffee.

But the member of staff refused.

Lindsey, a psychology and sociology student, said: "I asked why and I was told they had been having problems with drugs and mess being left out there and they were working with the council, refusing to give them hot drinks or food."

Lindsey said she asked a manager if they had experienced trouble with the man outside.

When the manager said yes, Lindsey revealed the man told her he had cleaned up after other rough sleepers who had urinated in the covered area and left a mess the previous night.

"The manager admitted to me that he had seen the man cleaning up in the morning," she said.

"I asked again and they refused and said it was their policy."

Lindsey's partner, Stuart (38) posted an open letter to Argo's managing director on Facebook, which has been shared more than 300 times.

The senior paramedic wrote: "We are appalled at this 'policy' and would like clarification from yourselves that you do indeed refuse to serve paying customers if they are wanting to buy a homeless person a drink or some food."

The couple said they often took their nine-year-old daughter and three-year-old son to the bar.

Lindsey said: "I'm grateful I didn't have my children with me because I don't want them to think that's an attitude people have."

In an email sent to Linsdey, Argo Lounge managing director Justin Carter said the bar had previously had problems with homeless people, including "violent threats to staff" and "having to clear up needles and excrement."

Mr Carter said the company had received "advice" from the council, including discouraging customers from buying drinks or food for homeless people.

However, the company denied having a policy to refuse hot drinks or other products being bought for rough sleepers.

Argo Lounge said in a statement: “Lounge takes this type of situation extremely seriously. We are very aware of the plight of the homeless individuals in Peterborough and have utmost sympathy for them and are working with the council to try and find ways to improve the situation.

"We pride ourselves on being a force for good in the community, raising significant amounts for charities and supporting the local community. We do not have and would never condone a policy to refuse a customer who is being kind to those that are less fortunate.

"There is no doubt that this situation could have been managed far better by us and should never have happened. We have talked to our team and apologise unreservedly for any distress or offence caused.”

A spokesman for Peterborough City Council said: "We do not have a policy in place with the Argo Lounge to prevent food or drink being given to homeless people on nearby streets.

"However, our officers have spoken to the company previously about this practice, advising that it can result in homeless people feeling less inclined to seek help.

"We are actively working with partners and businesses to support homeless people in the city and help them find accommodation.

"If members of the public wish to help the homeless, we recommend donating provisions such as food and warm clothing to local homeless shelters."

In the winter of 2016/17, the council spent £8,000 (£424 a day) on putting in security guards at St Peter's Arcade, a popular destination for rough sleepers which sits right next to Argo Lounge.

The council said the 'bouncers' were only there to advise homeless people about what help was available and to report incidents of anti-social behaviour to police.

One rough sleeper at the time told the PT: “Argo get on with us. They came out and gave us Christmas cards and cups of tea."

The guards were employed to patrol the city centre from 7pm to 7am for 19 days.

After their work had finished, Chief Inspector Rob Hill, head of the SaferPeterborough Prevention and Enforcement Service, said: “There were three incidents where police took action in response to offences: a fight, drunk and disorderly behaviour and public indecency.”


Meet the rough sleepers who brave the cold in St Peter’s Arcade

Guards set to leave