Leading figures from the hospitality industry admit they fear the worst after the government’s decision to impose a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants from tomorrow.
After the boost the industry received from the Eat Out to Help Out last month, many regard the latest measures as a huge setback.
Des Gunewardena, CEO and co-founder of D&D London (pictured below), said a 10pm curfew on its restaurants will be “very damaging”.
He said: “Since reopening we have been very reliant on the strength of our weekend business, much of which is later evening. This has mitigated the impact of early and midweek business which has been much more challenging with the absence of office workers and tourists.
“Our large West End restaurants such as Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street which only reopened a few weeks ago will be particularly hard hit. This move is a kick in the teeth for central London and in particular the West End where footfall was gradually starting to increase.”
Mr Gunewardena said it was very difficult to understand the logic for the decision.
“Public Health England’s own statistics clearly indicate that the recent significant increase in Covid infections is in care homes, schools and workplaces. It is not in pubs and restaurants. In fact less than 5% of infections are taking place in pubs and restaurants.
“And PHE is also reporting that yes Covid infections are rising in the North East and North West of England, but they are apparently not rising in London and the South East. So why impose a curfew ? Quite feasibly the health situation could actually get worse if after 10pm people left Covid-safe environments in restaurants and bars in order to continue to socialise in each other’s homes.
“In summary we don’t understand the reasoning behind the curfew, and it will seriously set back the recovery of city centre restaurants -particularly those in the West End of London.”
Jack Stein, chef director at Rick Stein Group, said that following Boris Johnson’s address to the nation last night, it was faced with contacting more than 900 customers who have reservations in its pub and restaurants to rearrange their bookings.
He said this would inevitably mean many cancellations and more lost revenue after months of closure.
“The vast majority of our restaurants are in Cornwall, an area where the infection rate is still very low so it’s difficult to understand the reasoning of a nationwide curfew. I think they are right to impose tighter restrictions on areas where there is a dangerously high rate, however that isn’t us, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“Once again, we’re relying on the government to take the scientific advice and form policy to minimise a second wave and help us reopen fully as soon as we can.”
Stuart Procter, COO at The Stafford Collection, said he was “hugely frustrated, angry and concerned” about the new 10pm national curfew.
It’s baffling that the Government would spend £522m on the brilliant EOTHO scheme last month, encouraging the British public to eat out as much as possible, and now we are back to being enemy number one.
“Thanks to the scheme, we’ve taken staff off furlough to cope with the demand of customers – what do we do with them now? Once again we’ve seen a huge change of strategy and it’s going to kill off so much of the hospitality industry when we’re proven to be some of the safest businesses in the UK thanks to our new distancing, cleaning and internal tracing measures.”
Within the Stafford Collection, 19% of all reservations are made for dinner post 9pm, not including walk-ins and hotel guests in the bar.
“This is a huge chunk of business which will now disappear for no good reason – does the virus only come out post 10pm?” said Mr Procter. “As an industry, we had just started to claw our way back from a catastrophic start to 2020, but this will be the nail in the coffin for so many in the hospitality and tourism sector.”