Parliament’s bars in Westminster are no longer exempt from the 10p.m. coronavirus curfew that has further hampered restaurants, pubs, and bars as they recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Palace of Westminster’s establishments had previously defied the coronavirus curfew, with the Parliament bar staff also exempt from new mask-wearing rules, according to the Times. Now, the government has made a U-turn, with a spokesperson saying that “Alcohol will not be sold after 10pm anywhere on the parliamentary estate.”
As has been a running theme of the pandemic, from eye tests for Dominic Cummings at Barnard Castle in Durham to placing last-minute restrictions on Eid celebrations, this latest instance of “one rule for this, another rule for that” has been fashioned out of a loophole that classifies Parliament’s bars as “workplace canteens.” A Freedom of Information request showed that many of the bars complied with initial lockdown regulations in March and closed, but Strangers’ Dining Room, the Adjournment and the Members’ Smoking Room and Pugin Room all reopened to MPs during the summer.
Both the initial defiance and the swiftness of the u-turn add to the feeling that the curfew’s material impact on coronavirus cases is secondary to its perceived value as a symbolic measure.