Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pictured with the newly elected MP for Hartlepool, Jill Mortimer, at the Jacksons Wharf venue last week (Friday 7 May).
The pub posted pictures of the PM pouring a pint at the site, including one where Johnson and Mortimer have removed their masks for a photograph.
Operators said the images made a mockery of their staff's hard work committing to pandemic rules and the devastating impact of restrictions on their businesses.
Posting an image of Johnson without a mask to Twitter, Yummy Pub Company boss Tim Foster expressed his frustration at the restrictions faced by pubs.
"Day in. Day out my team manage with these god awful restrictions. These two rock up for a [photo] opportunity & disregard everything we’ve been doing," he said.
Day in. Day out my team manage with these god awful restrictions. These two rock up for a opportunity & disregard everything we’ve been doing.— Tim Foster (@YummyTim) May 7, 2021
Others in the sector echoed Foster's ire, with one publican saying the image made him feel "impotent rage".
"Our whole industry is teetering on the edge of collapse dealing with rules so important they'll save humanity, but suddenly so trivial they can be p****d on for the sake of a photo op," operator of the Geese and Fountain in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire, Nick Holden tweeted.
I've just seen this. I'm literally crying with stupid, impotent rage. Our whole industry is teetering on the edge of collapse dealing with rules so important they'll save humanity, but suddenly so trivial they can be pissed on for the sake of a photo op. Defend this, Tory voters! https://t.co/dHZEvSpYqu— Nick Holden (@nick4glengate) May 9, 2021
Via his pub's social media, it was pointed out that "every pub in the country is coping with rules" including no indoor service until Monday 17 May, face covering requirements and table service.
Every pub in the country is coping with rules (a) no drinking inside (b) no customers inside (c) no customers anywhere near a bar and (d) masks always.— The Geese & Fountain (@Geese_Fountain) May 9, 2021
First, whose pub is this? What were you thinking?
Second, whose Prime Minister is this? What were *you* thinking? https://t.co/RfAMzdnZsw
What's more, Blind Tiger Inns managing director Chris Tulloch echoed Foster's frustration at the images after his outdoor trade was hit by bad weather this week.
I hear you Tim— ChrisTulloch (@chris_tulloch) May 8, 2021
Spent the day doing the following:
- Fixing weather damaged marquees
- Investing in new tablets for table service for wet led pubs
- Completing RA for indoor opening
Get home and “here’s a pic of the PM without a mask” ♂️ ♂️
A Conservative spokesperson said: “The PM visited a pub in Hartlepool last week and heard from the owners about how the business is currently operating for outdoor service as well as their preparations for reopening indoors.”
Pubs across the country are readying themselves to reopen for indoor service from Monday 17 May, after the PM confirmed the move last night (10 May).