A RESTAURANT owner has branded County Hall officials “morons” in a response to the council’s bid for tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Maffia’s, in Frinton Road, Holland-on-Sea, is a longstanding bar and brasserie, which has been dedicated to serving up intimate dining and tasty cuisine for 27 years.

Like many establishments within the hospitality sector, bosses at Maffia’s have now taken aim at Essex County Council with a hard-to-miss jibe.

Chalked on a blackboard sign, eye-catchingly positioned outside the restaurant, the written attack reads: “Well done Essex C C Morons. We are open.”

It comes after Essex County Council asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock to put Essex into the higher alert level which came into force on Saturday.

The tighter restrictions mean different households can no longer mix indoors deterring customers from visiting restaurants and bars.

Since the pandemic took hold, Maffia's' owners, Adrian Roberts, 62, and Christine Cooper, 73, say they have followed the rules and the welfare of their customers and staff is the top priority.

But Mr Roberts said he put up the sign to make people aware of the dire situation the council has put his business in.

“The sign is not meant to be humorous and it is not a joke at all,” he said.

“I had to refrain from putting what I actually wanted to on that sign.

“As soon as the council announced the decision, we were getting cancellations and I did not want to answer the phone anymore.

“They have basically shut us down without given us any financial help and it is has completely devastated us.

“People are losing their jobs, I have had to lay-off some staff and this is killing the trade. We can’t survive that long like this.”

County Hall, however, is set to get £3 million to mitigate the action but health boss John Spence says the decision was not influenced by money.

A spokesman for Essex County Council has said the switch to tier two had to be made.

“Moving into the high level sooner rather than later will protect lives and livelihoods,” they said.

“This means businesses like Maffia’s will be spared the much worse impacts of moving into the very high level restrictions as the spread of the virus will have been limited.”

Jamie Gemmell, however, who captured a photo of the controversial sign, thought it was refreshing to see the local business taking a stand.

“On the face of it, moving to the higher tier looked like a precautionary measure and I can see why some would think it was a good idea,” he said.

“But it is a pretty funny move by Maffia’s, and I thought it was good to see a business take a stand against the council.”