Leyton News

Staff at new Leyton pub told not to serve or ‘be friendly’ to Travellers

A young mum says she was abruptly sacked last week after complaining about the policy
By Victoria Munro

The Spark House in Leyton
The Spark House in Leyton

Staff at a new Leyton pub were ordered not to serve drinks or even be “friendly” to Travellers, a former employee claims.

Shonnette Byfield, a 33-year-old mother who grew up in the area, said she abruptly lost her job at The Spark House in Lea Bridge Road last week after complaining about the policy.

The Spark House was formerly The Drum, one of the first pubs opened by Wetherspoons, but reopened earlier this year after a makeover by new owner Laine Pub Company.

In a recording sent to the Echo, a voice can be heard instructing two people to refuse service to Travellers and not to treat them in a “friendly” way.

The voice says: “Otherwise they are going to fill this pub with 50 people, they are going to bring their own drinks, they’re going to fight here, they are going to smoke inside.

“Don’t be friendly. If you want to do that, you can do it outside the pub but not inside or we are going to have a problem. That’s what I’ve been told to do.”

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Shonnette told the Echo: “We were told to make up a lie and tell Traveller customers that we recognised them and they had caused problems previously, it gave me such a bad feeling.

“Having grown up with Travellers, I personally could not just sit down and take that. It’s not right or fair.

“It’s a shame because I really enjoyed working there because of the people that came in, some customers have even started a book club.”

When contacted for comment on Friday, a spokesperson for the Spark House said the pub has “zero tolerance of discrimination in any guise”. 

They added: “Consequently, when we became aware of the situation… on Friday, we immediately launched an internal investigation. 

“We have suspended all staff members implicated and are in continued and open conversation with the complainant, who we would like to thank for raising their concerns. 

“Our primary focus is to ensure the pub is a safe and inclusive place for everyone.”

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