The 10pm curfew must be enforced realistically, chef and restaurateur Anna Haugh has said after threats of a fine forced her to ask guests to wait for their taxis in the rain this weekend.
Haugh, of Myrtle restaurant in London's Chelsea, told The Caterer: "The council came in on Thursday after a couple of tables had paid and were getting ready to leave and gave us an official warning. They said if it happened again we'd be fined.
"On Saturday night it was bucketing down and we couldn't let anybody sit inside and wait for a cab. We genuinely had to make them stand outside, and there was a couple with no umbrella. It's insane but I have to do it or I'm breaking the law."
Haugh said she is trying to source affordable umbrellas to give out to guests and worries the curfew will put people off eating out altogether in winter if they struggle to get home. She said takings at Myrtle were down 20% since the introduction of the curfew and the rule of six.
"It's another obstacle [the hospitality industry] has got to overcome by investing more money, it's not fair."
Bim's burger restaurant in Ilford, east London, was fined £1,000 after handing a customer an order four minutes after the 10pm curfew; while Jeremy Joseph, owner of the G-A-Y nightclub group, has launched a legal challenge to the curfew amid a growing backlash from the hospitality industry.
He said the blanket closing time makes "absolutely no sense" and does "the opposite of protecting people by pushing them on to the street at the same time".
Haugh said she understands the need for some precautions, but that there needs to be a more "realistic" way to enforce the curfew.
She said: "People should still be allowed to sit socially distanced at a table after 10pm to wait for a cab if we're not making a profit or they're not eating or drinking any more. We all wear masks and are so careful about safety and how clean the restaurant is.
"It's frustrating as I've never once had anyone check up on what our safety protocols are, but they have checked to see we're obeying curfew. It makes no sense – what's the difference between people going home at 10pm or 11pm? I want to be law-abiding and a good business owner but I don't understand what the government is doing at all."
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