Hospitality leaders and business owners have called on the Government to reverse its ‘hugely damaging’ curfew, saying venues have already seen a 60% fall in takings.
The #Cancelthecurfew campaign has launched across England and Wales in a bid to put pressure on Boris Johnson to scrap the mandatory 10pm hard close time for pubs, restaurants and bars.
Organisers said the latest ‘ruinous policy’ is putting them in a worse situation than before, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and venues losing as much as 40 hours of trade a week.
They said the industry has been dealt another ‘devastating blow’ just as many businesses were getting back on their feet after closing to the public for months and has been ‘plunged back into uncertainty’.
Campaigners wrote to the prime minister urging him to ‘let us serve’ and ‘stop blaming hospitality’ for the spike in cases – just weeks after he encouraged the public to Eat Out to Help Out.
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Founder of Hospitality Gin and hospitality consultant, Tom Lord, said: ‘We have borne the brunt of the measures announced over the past fortnight.
‘We are vilified as breeding grounds for the virus, yet Public Health England’s own figures show this is not true.
‘We want the British public to know the impact that the curfew is going to have, not just on our businesses, but on our friends and colleagues.’
The latest Public Health England (PHE) data revealed just 3% of England’s outbreaks had been transmitted within the hospitality sector. This was compared to schools and care homes being responsible for more than two thirds of positive tests.
‘The industry that we love is in grave danger of being suffocated by this curfew,’ added Mr Lord.
‘Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs as a direct result of this disastrous policy, thousands of businesses will close their doors forever, and the hospitality industry will never be the same again.’
Organisers are encouraging business owners and hospitality workers to take part in a silent protest on Saturday and a so-called social media ‘thunderclap’, by uploading photos of themselves standing outside their venue using the #Cancelthecurfew hashtag.
Greg John, of the Manchester Hospitality Network which is backing the campaign, warned the curfew would ‘increase the infection rate’ rather than curb it.
He told Metro.co.uk on the day the curfew was announced: ‘Implementing a time of 10pm means it’s going to be like emptying a football pitch at the same time.’
Scenes across the country have shown large groups of people partying in the streets without social distancing after getting kicked out of venues at 10pm. Meanwhile, videos from London show swathes of punters cramming into Tube stations at the same time.
But despite the backlash, the health secretary today defended what he described as a ‘necessary’ measure to curb the spread of the virus but acknowledged it was ‘yet another sacrifice’ for the already hard hit industry.
Matt Hancock told the Commons: ‘By its nature, this virus spreads through social contact, and so it’s had a terrible impact on the hospitality sector who, in good times, exist to encourage that social contact that we all enjoy.’
‘So whilst I know that many of the individual rules are challenging, they are necessary, and there are those early signs that they’re working,’ he added.
The Campaign for Real Ale hit back saying the public has been shown no evidence that the curfew – which is ‘crippling’ businesses – is working.
Chief Executive Tom Stainer said: ‘Without seeing the evidence about the curfew and about transmissions in pubs, the sector feels that it is being unfairly targeted without explanation, evidence or any financial help to compensate.
‘There was also no announcement on targeted financial support which is desperately needed to save our pubs that are seeing reduced trade as a result of government restrictions.
‘Without a new support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs, clubs and breweries closing for good before Christmas.’
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