Middlesbrough Council has hit a department store in the town with fixed penalty notices totalling £17,000 after it failed to close as required under COVID-19 regulations.
The local authority said the unnamed store was also issued with a prohibition notice. It added that the business had now complied with the notices and would no longer trade while the restrictions are in place.
“It's understood local authorities in other areas of the country are also pursuing enforcement action against the company,” it said.
The council said the area’s infection rate was alarmingly high and it was taking action to protect public health.
Four town centre phone retailers have also received £1,000 fixed penalty notices.
“Although the businesses concerned are permitted to operate collection services, they were observed selling directly from their premises,” Middlesbrough said.
The council's Head of Public Protection, Judith Hedgley, said: "We have found a number of shops trading which are not essential retailers. In some cases they have tried to get around the restrictions by selling or claiming to sell a small amount of food, medicines or items that are actually essential.
"Some shops have even started to sell such items like face coverings then claiming they are essential on this basis. The laws are in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Middlesbrough's infection rate is among the highest in the country. We must all follow the restrictions to stop the spread."
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Our town needs as short a period of lockdown as possible. The longer restrictions are in place the more damage they will cause. This is about protecting public health and also people's livelihoods and futures.
"To everyone who is doing the right thing - thank you. To anyone ignoring the rules please think about the impact your actions have on Middlesbrough. Council officers won't hesitate to take enforcement action."