Words by Simon Difford
Difford's Guide is read by Discerning Drinkers in more than 70 countries and every one of those, be they directly employed in the drinks industry, bar goer or home cocktail maker, has been impacted to a greater or lesser degree by Covid-19. Here in the UK, our friends in hospitality have been dealt another body blow.
New laws force pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK to:
- Close at 10pm so the last opportunity to order that nightcap now falls around 9:30pm.
- Operate table service only with no standing or ordering at the bar.
- Enforce mandatory face coverings in all indoor situations (except when guests are seated at a table to eat or drink).
- Limit tables to a maximum of 6 guests with each table being suitably distanced from others.
- No music louder than 85 decibels.
And if the above doesn't make operating a venue challenging enough, the UK government has told office workers to work from home where they can, so dramatically reducing town and city centre clientele. And in some parts of the country the above rule of six is reduced still further to only those from the same household.
It is undeniable that contact with others increases the transmission of Covid-19, be that in a church, post office, supermarket, cinema, pub, bar or restaurant. Transmission rates in such situations are not governed by time of day but how strictly social distance and hygiene rules are implemented. Hence, the UK's 10pm rule is merely a very blunt attempt at generally reducing social contact.
No evidence has been put forward by the government to justify the imposition of the above 10pm closure and with supermarkets and other licensed off-sales retailers open beyond this time the new rule has merely driven drinkers onto the street and into each other's homes. From heavily regulated socially distanced and licensed venues into totally unregulated and unsafe environments.
Understandably, folk in the UK's hospitality industry are challenging the sense of this 10pm rule as it would appear to target their survival more directly than that of the virus.
We are told the measures outlined above are likely to be in place until March 2020 and while at the start of Lockdown bar owners retained some optimism, I now sense despair with all too many already closed and never to reopen. Back during Lockdown there was a feeling of us all being in it together. Now, as bar owners look at neighbouring businesses back to near normal trading, they feel unfairly singled out for chastisement without support.
Local hospitality groups, bars and restaurants across the country have banded together to create a quickly growing campaign #CANCELTHECURFEW – Stop Blaming Hospitality, Let Us Serve against the 10pm curfew. Those, including us, that support this campaign also support government measures to bring the pandemic under control to limit death and suffering but they, and we, feel such a curfew unnecessarily singles out and impacts the hospitality industry.
Please join up to one or more of the #CancelTheCurfew social media groups for more information on how you can help:
Please support #CancelTheCurfew and sign the petition on the government website calling for the 10pm curfew to be cancelled.
10pm on Saturday 3rd October
If you work in UK hospitality then this Saturday, 3rd October, please stand outside your venue with your colleagues (groups of max 6) and ask somebody to photograph you all. Then please post this on your personal and the venue's social media channels with the hashtag #CancelTheCurfew.
#CANCELTHECURFEW – Stop Blaming Hospitality