Boris Johnson’s plans to impose a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants have been described as a “crushing blow” for the hospitality sector.
The new measures are set to be enforced from Thursday across England, amid concerns that social distancing rules aren’t respected late at night.
But Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality has argued that this approach will make it harder to control the spread of coronavirus – and pointed to government data that suggests just 5% of infections are linked to hospitality venues.
She 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.”
Ms Nicholls also claimed that similar measures enforced in local lockdowns have failed to reduce infection rates and “merely damaged businesses and cost jobs”.
She is now calling for a support package to be targeted towards the hospitality sector, and said the government must “recognise this will damage confidence even further” and cause the sector to struggle long into next year.
“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,” she added.
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The Institute of Economic Affairs has also criticised the plans, which will also ban people from ordering at the bar.
The right-wing think tank’s head of lifestyle economics, Christopher Snowdon, said: “While mandatory table service has been part of the successful Swedish approach and may have merit, the new closing time will be devastating to a hospitality sector that was already suffering after the first lockdown.
“The government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based.”
Mr Johnson is set to give a TV address to the nation tonight, in which he will unveil a range of new measures to tackle the dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases.