Wednesday 16 September 2020 3:30 pm

Coronavirus curfew would 'devastate' hospitality industry, experts warn

The introduction of a coronavirus curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants to halt the spread of infections would “devastate” the hospitality sector, industry bodies have warned.

The government is reportedly considering imposing a 9pm or 10pm curfew on hospitality venues in a bid to slow rising Covid-19 cases across the country. 

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The Telegraph reported this week that ministers believe curfew would be the “obvious next step” to contain the virus in a bid to avoid a second national lockdown.

Young people have been blamed for a recent spike in confirmed cases and concerns are growing that the infection could be passed onto older people who are more vulnerable to the virus, resulting in further deaths.

However the UK hospitality industry has refuted claims that the earlier closure of night time venues would stop the spread, but warned the measure could have a devastating impact on the already struggling sector.

Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said such a move would drive more young people to socialise at illegal gatherings and worsen the spread of the virus. 

“Rumours have been circulating about the government enforcing curfews as a measure to control the pandemic for many weeks now,” Kill said. 

“Further restrictions on the businesses that are open will devastate the sector and will only compound the current issues faced by businesses that are closed and unable to open.

“A curfew will prevent late-night bars and venues from trading at peak hours and will only drive more young people, frustrated by the restrictions, to socialise past curfew at illegal gatherings in unregulated environments leading to further issues around transmission.”

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin warned that the industry, which was subject to enforced closure between 23 March and 4 July, is at a “delicate moment” in its recovery.

She said a third of UK pubs are already struggling to break even since reopening due to lower capacity and dampened consumer confidence.

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“Our sector has been one of the hardest and longest hit by the pandemic but pubs and brewers have worked tirelessly to get pubs safely open and stocked since July,” McClarkin said. 

She added: “Consumer confidence is very fragile and any extra restrictions would inevitably have a further cooling effect on that. 

“Our pubs will continue to adhere strictly to Government guidance ensuring that they remain a safe and welcoming place for socialising.”

Meanwhile, UK Hospitality, which today warned that 900,000 industry jobs are at risk without further government support, said the measure would do serious damage businesses.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is difficult to see how an arbitrary 9pm curfew could help; what is more certain is the very serious harm and damage it will do to businesses, which have already taken a battering, and the impact on jobs, which again is already very significant.”