Monday 23 November 2020 5:51 pm

Curfew to be pushed back to 11pm but pubs warn restrictions will 'destroy' sector

The Prime Minister has confirmed that the curfew for pubs and restaurants will be pushed back to 11pm when the coronavirus lockdown ends next month, but the hospitality industry has slammed new restrictions as “disastrous” for the sector.

In a statement to Parliament this afternoon, Boris Johnson announced that the lockdown will be lifted on 2 December, to be replaced by a tier system.

Read more: Keir Starmer backs call to end 10pm pub and restaurant curfew

Under the new restrictions, hospitality businesses will have to call last orders at 10pm, and punters will be given an extra hour to finish their drinks and meals.

However, the new tier system is tougher than the restrictions that were in place before the national lockdown.

Hospitality businesses in Tier 1 will have to abide by the curfew and will not be able to seat groups of more than six.

In Tier 2 areas, punters will have to order a “substantial meal” to be served alcohol. 

Premises will be forced to close in Tier 3, and will only be able to offer food and drink for takeaway and collection.

‘Crushing blow’

Nick Mackenzie, the chief executive of pub chain Greene King, said the restrictions were a “crushing blow” for the sector, with pubs “unfairly singled out” in the most important trading month of the year.

“Pubs play a key role in combatting loneliness and isolation and we have followed all the government’s requirements to ensure our pubs are well-regulated and Covid-secure environments for friends and families to stay connected as we approach Christmas,” Mackenzie said.

“Safety is paramount but restrictions must be proportionate and not put hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs at risk across the hospitality industry.”

Stricter restrictions ‘a disaster’

The industry has slammed the new rules as “disastrous”, and has called on the government to provide evidence that pubs contribute to the spread of Covid-19.

Read more: Revolution Bars to close six sites as sales plunge due to coronavirus 10pm curfew

“Our sector has been singled out by these new measures which unfairly target pubs,” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said.

“The additional restrictions will destroy our sector if they go ahead as proposed. 

“Whilst the review of curfew is overdue the relaxation of the 10pm curfew is meaningless if most pubs are rendered unviable or forced to close under tiers two and three. “

She added that the sector will need more government support if the restrictions go ahead as proposed.

“The current grants are not even enough to cover fixed costs in a pub, and now must compensate for the revenue pubs and breweries will lose as a result of these additional restrictions,” McClarking said.

“Without an enhanced grants package of support for pubs and brewers thousands of businesses are doomed to fail, destroying thousands of livelihoods and communities across the UK.”

End of ‘nonsensical’ curfew

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “Ending the nonsensical 10pm curfew will help the hospitality industry to some extent, but any ban on household mixing indoors will be hugely disappointing for the sector.

Read more: PM confirms return of fans to live sport when lockdown lifts on 2 December

“The government must stand ready to support those firms that cannot trade normally, particularly in culture, leisure, retail and hospitality. Extending business rates relief through 2021 and restoring VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors will help firms most in need.”

Jobs and businesses “at risk”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, urged the government to set out evidence for restrictions on the sector.

“Given that many hundreds of businesses are now placed in jeopardy and millions of jobs may be lost in hospitality, leisure and supply chain we urgently need govt to set out clearly the evidence to justify each restriction and explain how it will impact on the key health metrics,” she said.

Read more: Government to scrap 10pm hospitality curfew

Nicholls also said the hospitality firms must not be subject to new restrictions in the New Year and that they should benefit from any easing of rules over Christmas.

“We also need commitments that – having been forced to close to allow others to open – there will be no return to closure for hospitality post Christmas; that our businesses will be included in Christmas relaxations and that restrictions will be eased when vaccine in use,” she said on Twitter.