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MPs and Restaurants Alike Urge Government to Revisit Hospitality Curfew

The two groups push for constant reviews and evidence of it working as hospitality revenue drops

A hospitality worker picks up an umbrella from a Soho street to close a restaurant for curfew
The 10p.m. curfew has hit revenue hard
Photo by Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

With the 10pm coronavirus curfew on U.K. pubs, restaurants and bars having been in place for a week, both the hospitality industry and U.K. MPs are urging Boris Johnson’s government to review the efficacy of the new measures, according to the Guardian.

An open letter from 100 large hospitality operators says that the curfew could prove the “final nail in the coffin” for hospitality businesses, in conjunction with epidemiologically validated social distancing measures that have depressed revenue and a new job support scheme based around “viable jobs,” which will be made less viable by the curfew itself. It presses the government to publicly review the measures at least every three weeks, and to commit to scrapping them if there is no evidence of a positive impact on COVID-19 transmission, which continues to rise in the U.K.

Trade bodies U.K. Hospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association, and the British Institute of Innkeeping have all signed the letter referring to the “bleakest of winters” that awaits restaurants, pubs, and bars, which benefited from long periods of sunshine into September and, in the case of restaurants, from the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. With both sunshine and support fading, the letter echoes the general sentiment that the longer no evidence for the curfew is provided, the longer it feels like a singling out of hospitality — though other nightlife economies and creative industries remain closed, and have been closed for longer than restaurants, pubs, and bars.

The length of the proposed measures — six months, according to the prime minister — is also a sticking point, as this would outlast the lease forfeiture moratorium that currently prevents commercial tenants from being evicted for coronavirus rent arrears. That expires at the end of the year, and with no rent legislation in place, whether or not restaurants start 2021 with a bill for ten months’ back rent is entirely between them and their landlords.

A cross-party group of MPs echoes the sentiments of restaurants, pub owners, and bar owners, with 25 signing a letter pushing the government to “publish the medical, scientific, and behavioural evidence” behind the curfew. News this week that the restrictions did not apply to Parliament’s bars — until they did, a few hours later, following a U-turn — has only exacerbated the sense of arbitrariness felt by restaurants, pubs, and bars across the city. If the government and its medical advisors turn around and present genuine evidence of the curfew’s efficacy, the conversation will necessarily change. But until then, the same sentiments will recur: why hospitality? Why 10p.m.?