London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the 10 p.m. restaurant and pub curfew to be scrapped, now that the capital has been placed under tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.
In a statement posted online this lunchtime (20 October 2020), Khan said: “Now London [...has] moved into tier 2 and higher restrictions, which prohibit household mixing, the current 10 p.m. curfew policy makes even less sense and should be scrapped.”
The rule, introduced on 24 September, means all restaurants and pubs must be free of guests and closed by 10 p.m. It was roundly lambasted by chefs, restaurant owners, and representatives from across the industry. The basis for its scrapping is twofold, according to Khan. One, the risk of virus transmission was greater if all venues were emptying into the streets and onto public transport at the same time. “We saw the worrying consequences of increased social mixing on the streets and on public transport in the capital around 10 p.m. immediately after [the curfew’s] introduction,” the Mayor said.
The second reason is that it is damaging business unnecessarily — the same argument made by those protesting against government restrictions on hospitality in Parliament Square yesterday morning. “Immediately scrapping the 10 p.m. curfew would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening, helping with cashflow at a time when venues need all the support they can get,” Khan said. Restaurateurs have pointed out that the need to be closed by 10 p.m. essentially means that an entire service is lost, which, in a restaurant with two sittings per night and no alteration to opening hours, could mean as much as 50 percent lost revenue — on an already diminished number of covers because of social distancing restrictions. It also is worth remembering that if there does exist scientific evidence to support the curfew, the government is yet to provide it.
In his closing remarks, Khan, a Labour mayor, said that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government “still haven’t got a grip on this virus and [were yet to provide] a functioning test and trace system.” Because of that, he argued, ministers had to ensure that businesses were given the the financial support they needed to survive, so long as restrictions remained in place. This echoes the case presented by U.K. Hospitality and two trade bodies representing pubs yesterday: that without that support, up to 750,000 jobs could be lost by the end of February next year.
Khan was specific in what he said was needed. Referring to “a proper job retention scheme”, he called for measures that were above and beyond the Job Support Scheme which is set to come into place at the start of November. He said that the furlough scheme, which had been in place since the start of the pandemic, and which saw 80 percent of wages covered by the government, should be extended beyond the end of October for those businesses which were still being impacted by COVID-19.
It’s now up to the government to either justify the curfew, scrap it, or present a support package that is proportional to the losses being endured by businesses. Otherwise, ministers will be complicit in the collapse of an industry whose health it has previously seen as critical to the post-Covid economic recovery of the country itself.