Curfew of 10pm and table service restriction for restaurants and pubs in England

22 September 2020 by
Curfew of 10pm and table service restriction for restaurants and pubs in England

A 10pm curfew for all pubs, bars and restaurants and compulsory table service will come into effect from Thursday across the whole of England, the prime minister will announce this evening.

The move has been slammed as "devastating" and "another crushing blow" for the industry.

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

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the restrictions were "another crushing blow" for many hospitality businesses struggling to recover and urged for the new rules to be 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."

Nicholls said it was "hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease" when government data showed that just 5% of infections out of the home were linked to hospitality.

She added: "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."

The news has been received with dismay across the industry, with operators left asking "why us" and highlighting that the new measures will cause guests to all leave a venue at the same time, in a less managed manner, while limiting many establishments to one evening service.

Chris Mitchell, managing director of contract caterer Genuine Dining Co, described the move as "the final nail in the coffin for a lot of businesses and lost confidence for people".

Just yesterday operators in the north east had shared how the same curfew, which came into force on Friday as part of localised restrictions, had impacted their businesses.

Adrian Grieves, owner of Garden House Inn in Durham, said weekend sales had been "disastrous".

He added: "We were down by 70%. It's only families that can go to a bar or a pub. Confidence is obviously knocked. Everybody's running scared and we're not getting any guidance as to how to put it right.

"It was going okay when we first reopened but since they put this in, it's collapsed. It's taken the confidence out of everybody."

Ahead of the announcement hospitality operators had called on the government not to penalise them to deflect from or compensate for its failures.

London's night czar Amy Lamé said: "There's nothing magic about 10pm. The virus doesn't care what time it is. What we need is a fully functioning testing system and a fully functioning contact tracing system."

Nicholls has added that a "new support package" for the sector 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."

She added: "Even a relatively minor change like closing at 10pm as opposed to 11pm puts a significant dent into a business."

Photo: Shutterstock

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