Pubs and bars have been ordered to close their venues at 10pm under new restrictions from government in a bid to fight the rise in infections of Covid-19.
Hospitality operations will also be restricted to table service only and teams are being told they must wear a face mask. Businesses may be fined if they break the new rules, which could be in place for up to six months.
Earlier this morning, cabinet minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast that there was evidence the 10pm closing time has had a beneficial effect in the areas where the restrictions have already been tried.
However, industry operators are refuting that pubs and bars are the problem.
Tim Foster, who runs Yummy Pub Co, tweeted: “Pubs = easy target = great media. Drinking at home, gathering at home, parties at home = not as sexy. Let’s hear the facts. Where is the detail? Over 100,000 customers have visited my pubs and NOT ONE CASE. That is 0.0% on the R number per 100,000 people.”
Yesterday, Oakman Inns founder Peter Borg-Neal challenged health secretary Matt Hancock to prove that the spike in England’s Covid-19 cases emanates from pubs and restaurants.
Alex Reilley, who founded the cafe-bar brand Loungers, also took to Twitter: “Maybe all UK hospitality businesses should unite and collectively bar Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock from all hospitality premises in the UK,” he said. “Just a thought.”
“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,” says Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO. “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.”