Anger and Dismay at Decision to Impose 10pm Curfew

The government will today confirm that all pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality in England will be required subject to a curfew and will have close by 10pm from Thursday (24 September)

The move, to be officially announced later this evening, and follows the Covid-19 alert level being upgraded on Monday from Level 3 to Level 4, the second-highest grade, signifying the virus is in general circulation, high or rising exponentially.

The decision is described by UKHospitality as “another crushing blow” to sector businesses already struggling to recover. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) will also say that the hospitality sector will be restricted by law to table service only. A No 10 spokesperson said: “No-one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses. We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO, commented: “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.

“Most critically, Government needs to recognise this will damage confidence even further and it is now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021. A new support package is now essential. 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.”

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pubs Association said:

“As an industry we recognise the need to continue to support the Government and local communities to manage the risk of rising infection rates.

“We take our responsibilities in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19 incredibly seriously and pubs have adapted well to the “new normal” over the past few months and will continue to do so, creating safe environments for socialising. A curfew is particularly heart-breaking for those pubs in areas where infection rates remain under control. There seems to be little available evidence that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe, so we are unsure that this blanket measure will make a major difference.

“Make no mistake, a 10pm curfew will devastate our sector during an already challenging environment for pubs. Pubs were struggling to break even before today and these latest restrictions will push some to breaking point. Removing a key trading hour on top of fragile consumer confidence and the reduced capacity pubs already face will put thousands more pubs and jobs at risk.

“During the current circumstances every hour of trading it crucial to the survival of pubs – for many this curfew will render their businesses unviable.

“The Government now needs to act fast in putting together a comprehensive support package to ensure that thousands of pubs don’t close their doors for good because of this curfew. We need an immediate sector specific furlough scheme to save the hundreds of thousands of jobs that pubs support, extended VAT cuts and business rates holiday and a substantial cut to the rate of beer duty in the Autumn Budget. Only a comprehensive support package like this will save thousands of pubs and many more pub jobs.”