The hospitality industry has been handed a 10pm curfew in the Government’s latest bid to try to combat a rise in coronavirus cases.
Instead of implementing a working and widespread track a trace app early on, instead of providing adequate PPE to NHS staff, and instead of more rigorously enforcing hand sanitising and mask-wearing rules on public transport, ministers have opted to send everyone home at the same time after dining and drinking out.
Government scientists argue that as people become more intoxicated, social distancing practise waivers – this is probably true. So too are observations that people are more likely to shun guidelines later on, when it is cold and dark.
But those in the trade have said it is only a minority to blame and they are, wherever possible, dealt with. After reopening on July 4 and told to Eat Out to Help Out in August, restaurants and pubs are now again being curtailed, their business impacted.
And many suggest the economy plummeting further will hurt public health beyond the impact of Covid-19. There’s a strong case for this stance.
As D&D CEO Des Gunewardena says: “A 10pm curfew on our restaurants will be very damaging. Since reopening we have been very reliant on the strength of our weekend business, much of which is later evening. This has mitigated the impact of early and midweek business which has been much more challenging with the absence of office workers and tourists.
“Our large West End restaurants such as Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street which only reopened a few weeks ago will be particularly hard hit. This move is a kick in the teeth for central London and in particular the West End where footfall was gradually starting to increase.
“It is very difficult to understand the logic for this decision. Public Health England’s own statistics clearly indicate that the recent significant increase in Covid infections is in care homes, schools and workplaces. It is NOT in pubs and restaurants.
“In fact less than 5% of infections are taking place in pubs and restaurants. And PHE is also reporting that yes Covid infections are rising in the North East and North West of England, but they are apparently NOT rising in London and the South East. So why impose a curfew?
“Quite feasibly the health situation could actually get worse if after 10pm people left Covid-safe environments in restaurants and bars in order to continue to socialise in each other’s homes.
“In summary we don’t understand the reasoning behind the curfew, and it will seriously set back the recovery of city centre restaurants -particularly those in the West End of London.”
Jack Stein, chef director of the Stein Restaurant Group, says: “As of today, we are going to have to contact over 900 customers who have reservations in our pub and restaurants to rearrange their bookings which means disappointment for some, many cancellations and more lost revenue for us after months of closure.
“The vast majority of our restaurants are in Cornwall, an area where the infection rate is still very low so it’s difficult to understand the reasoning of a nationwide curfew. I think they are right to impose tighter restrictions on areas where there is a dangerously high rate, however that isn’t us, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“Once again, we’re relying on the government to take the scientific advice and form policy to minimise a second wave and help us reopen fully as soon as we can.”
Chris Leach, from Manteca, Soho, adds: “This is another huge hit for the hospitality industry. The effects of the curfew are going to be devastating and to me, it doesn’t feel like a sensible solution.
“The damage that will be done to the industry versus controlling the virus seems disproportionate. It may not seem like a big difference closing an hour earlier but it means that restaurants aren’t going to be able to seat people after 8/8.30pm and doors need to be closed by 10pm which affects people’s ability to come and have an evening out.
“Being in Soho, we will feel that hit even more.”