The new curfew on UK bars and restaurants will 'devastate' the industry, owners say
- The UK government introduced a 22:00 curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants, and compulsory table service as part of its latest coronavirus safety measures.
- Industry bodies have described this as “another crushing blow” that will “devastate” the sector well into 2021.
- Two in five adults said they will go out less often as a result of curfew, according to survey from market research company CGA.
- The curfew will also affect takeaways. CEOs of fast food giants KFC and Pizza Hut warned that the curfew could have a "catastrophic impact."
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England's new 22:00 curfew at pubs, bars, and restaurants — designed to push down COVID-19 cases — is "another crushing blow" to struggling businesses now facing closure, owners have said.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of members of the UK's biggest pub and hospitality trade bodies expect to fail in the next three months unless the government gives them more support, a survey by market research company CGA shows — and the curfew "will only make the situation worse," the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) said. One in eight hospitality staff have already been made redundant, the survey said.
Two in five adults said they will go out less often as a result of curfew, according to a CGA survey carried out immediately after the announcement.
The curfew will "devastate" the sector, said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, describing it as "particularly heart-breaking" for pubs in areas with low infection rates, such as Reading, Bristol, and Cambridge.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of the trade body UKHospitality, described the restrictions as "another crushing blow" for struggling hospitality businesses, adding that it is "now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021."
The government introduced new lockdown measures in England on Monday as coronavirus cases in the country rose towards what scientists fear will be a second peak.
This included a 10 p.m. curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants, and compulsory table service from September 24.
The curfew also covers other leisure sites such as casinos, social clubs, and funfairs.
Nicholls: Similar curfew didn't work in the North of England
On September 19, a similar curfew was introduced across parts of northern England, where cases of the virus were high. It is still too early to say whether the curfew cut cases.
Nicholls said that it is "hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease." She added that the curfews in north England "merely damaged business and cost jobs."
Nicholls also argued that the new rules have to be applied "with flexibility." She said that the curfew would be bad for both business and controlling the virus, as pubs and restaurants need time for people to leave venues slowly over a longer period of time.
Tim Martin, chairman of British chain J D Wetherspoon, which has nearly 900 pubs, told Business Insider that curfews are "counterproductive."
He said that "pubs are working very hard to implement sensible social distancing rules," and said that because of the curfew, people will socialize in other locations, "where there is no supervision."
A third of respondents to the CGA survey say they would be likely to invite friends back to their house after 10 p.m..
Politicians have voiced similar arguments too. Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said on September 11 that strict rules in shops and restaurants made them safer than other people's houses, "where people are more relaxed and less vigilant."
Wetherspoons has invested around £15 million on social distancing and hygiene measures, Martin said, including reducing capacity, installing protective screens, and providing hand sanitizers.
"It is clearly not the case that pubs are 'dangerous places to be,'" Martin said, addressing press coverage.
Since pubs reopened on July 4, 6% of Wetherspoons pubs have reported cases of Covid-19 — including 66 staff members who tested positive.
Greene King manages 1,700 pubs across the UK. Its chief executive Nick Mackenzie told Business Insider that fewer than 1% of them have been contacted by the National Health Service's Test & Trace service since reopening in July.
Mackenzie called the new restrictions a "significant setback," and said the curfew would disrupt a "key trading period" for the hospitality industry. It was especially damaging because pubs have fewer customers than usual because of social distancing, he said.
Fast-food chains — including the CEOs of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Deliveroo — have also warned that the curfew could have a "catastrophic impact" on businesses.
"I am sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he announced the new measures.
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