London’s restaurants and pubs will enter tier two coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday 2 December, according to a new government postcode tool. Health secretary Matt Hancock will confirm the tiers later today.
The rules stipulate that indoor dining is restricted to a single household or bubble, with up to six people from multiple households able to dine outside. Pubs can only serve alcohol with “a substantial meal,” and the much-criticised 10 p.m. hospitality curfew has been extended to 11 p.m., which for many restaurants, means a reversion to a more normal closing time.
The guidance again details an exemption to gathering limits “for work.” Some London restaurants took that to mean that “business meetings” of up to 30 people were permitted indoors when placed under tier 2 restrictions in October.
As in October, this permission to open means that while covered by the furlough scheme through to March 2021, restaurants and pubs cannot close and claim further government financial assistance, even though the limits on household mixing and serving of alcohol will again heavily restrict trade. With the lease forfeiture moratorium that prevents evictions and demands for rent arrears expiring at the start of 2021, this remains a worrying time for restaurants and pubs, which almost unilaterally require further rent provisions if they are to stay afloat through to spring/summer 2021, with the hope of a vaccine on the horizon.
If London is later placed into tier three, the city’s hospitality businesses will again be forced to close, with takeaway and delivery permitted — effectively a repeat of the current lockdown. The first tier review is scheduled for 16 December.