Pub and restaurant bosses criticise 10pm Covid-19 curfew

22 September 2020, 06:31 | Updated: 22 September 2020, 10:01

New rules: Diners at a restaurant in Covent Garden
New rules: Diners at a restaurant in Covent Garden. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Government's plan to impose a 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and bars in England has been condemned by leading industry figures who have described the move as a "crushing blow" for the sector.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the new restrictions - which will also ban people from ordering at the bar - when he addresses the nation on Tuesday evening.

The measures come amid fears the UK could see 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by the middle of October without Government action.

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Paul Foster, who owns Salt - a Michelin-starred restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon, has told LBC the new measure doesn't make sense.

"For restaurants, pubs all to be grouped together, to be closed at 10pm, I cannot for the life of me understand what benefit that is going to have.

"If they were really serious about this then they would be closing us down completely."

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: "These restrictions will come as another crushing blow for many hospitality businesses struggling to recover so it's crucial these new rules are applied with flexibility.

"A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus - we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period.

"Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops.

"It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.

"Where such restrictions have been put in place locally they have not cut infection rates, merely damaged business and cost jobs."

She said the Government needs to "recognise this will damage confidence even further and it is now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021" and called for a support package.

She said: "We need to see an early signal that the VAT cut will be extended through to the end of 2021; that the business rates holiday will continue next year; and an enhanced employment support package specifically for hospitality.

"We agree with the Government that we are all in this together. Hospitality has played its part by investing in Covid-secure venues and reassuring their customers.

"Now, it's time for Government to demonstrate its commitment to the sector and its recovery - hundreds of thousands of livelihoods depend upon it."

The Institute of Economic Affairs think tank also criticised the plans.

Christopher Snowdon, the IEA's head of lifestyle economics, said: "A 10pm closing time for all pubs, bars and other hospitality seems to have emerged from a random policy generator.

"While mandatory table service has been part of the successful Swedish approach and may have merit, the new closing time will be devastating to a hospitality sector that was already suffering after the first lockdown.

"The Government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based."