'Another crushing blow' for hospitality as Government tightens restrictions on sector

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Government tightens restrictions on hospitality sector pub restaurant curfew 22:00 table service

Related tags lockdown Restaurant Pubs Coronavirus

Pubs and restaurants across England must have a 10pm closing time from Thursday (24 September) under new Coronavirus restrictions that have been described as 'another crushing blow' for the sector.

All hospitality venues will also be restricted by law to table service only, in measures that will be set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons later today (22 September).

Johnson is also set to address the nation in a live televised broadcast at 8pm tonight.

Similar restrictions on hospitality in Scotland are also expected to be announced later today.

It comes after the UK's Covid-19 alert level rose from three to four yesterday afternoon (21 September), meaning transmission is 'high or rising exponentially'.

Pubs and restaurants in parts of north-east​ and north-west England​, as well as areas of Wales​, are already facing a 10pm curfew on opening hours following a recent spike in Coronavirus infections. 

Over the weekend, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that pubs and restaurants are one of the key places of transmission of the virus.

However, this has been strongly rejected by hospitality leaders​, who pointed to Public Health England data showing that out of 729 new incidents reported in week 37, just 34 were linked to food outlet or restaurant settings.

This compared to 313 incidents in care homes; 193 from educational settings; and 110 from workplaces.

Responding to news of the new restrictions on opening hours, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “These restrictions will come as another crushing blow for many hospitality businesses struggling to recover so it’s crucial these new rules are applied with flexibility.

"A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus - we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period. Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops."

Similarly to others in the industry, Nicholls added that she found it hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease, when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.

"Where such restrictions have been put in place locally they have not cut infection rates, merely damaged business and cost jobs," she said.

“Most critically, Government needs to recognise this will damage confidence even further and it is now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021. A new support package is now essential.

"We need to see an early signal that the VAT cut will be extended through to the end of 2021; that the business rates holiday will continue next year; and an enhanced employment support package specifically for hospitality.

“We agree with the Government that we are all in this together. Hospitality has played its part by investing in Covid-secure venues and reassuring their customers. Now, it’s time for Government to demonstrate its commitment to the sector and its recovery - hundreds of thousands of livelihoods depend upon it.”

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