Bars and restaurants in call to cancel curfew

East London bars and restaurants are calling on the Government to “cancel the curfew”, arguing it will not reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The Government postponed a vote in the House of Commons on the 10pm curfew on Wednesday October 7 amid rumours Tory MPs would vote against it.

The curfew was introduced two weeks ago to limit the spread of the pandemic and has been strictly enforced, with one Ilford takeaway receiving a £1,000 fine for breaking it by just four minutes.

But east London business-owners, like Mark Hislop from Exale Brewing and Ben Anastasiou-Milne of Bombetta London, argue it may even increase infection rates.

Ben, joint-owner of Bombetta London in Wanstead, said: “Everyone is kicked out at the same time, which defeats the point of social distancing.

“I feel it’s actually less safe because everyone is arriving and departing at exactly the same time.”

He said his restaurant was only seeing three quarters of its usual earnings on Fridays and Saturdays, normally the two busiest days.

He said: “What’s most important is the safety of our guests. We have done everything that’s been asked of us.

“But the experience is shortened, we are seeing less dessert orders, less coffees and less alcohol, which is reducing takings.

“At the moment we are managing to make ends meet but, if people have a negative experience and do not want to go out because their evening is truncated, that will have an effect.”

Mark Hislop, co-founder of Exale Brewing in Walthamstow, said the brewery and taproom, which only launched in January, was “really struggling” under the curfew.

He said: “If it goes on longer than six months, I do not think there will be much of a hospitality industry left.

“The hospitality industry has been used as a scapegoat, I think the 10pm curfew is just nonsense.

“What we need is a really good testing system and track and trace and the Government has failed us on both of those.

“They have punished a group of people who are not going to vote for the (current) Government anyway because jobs in hospitality tend to be young people.”

He said the whole industry “more than understood the need to protect the local community” but that he “can’t honestly see what those two hours are really going to do to stop the spread”.

“If it was going to make a difference,” he added, “I would say go for it but I do not think it is.”

The Track and Trace system cannot identify for certain where someone became infected.

However, figures published by the Government showed more than 3,000 Covid sufferers reported eating out in the week before showing symptoms.

Other hospitality venues like bars are lumped in with an “Other” section in the figures publicly released, making it impossible to estimate their impact.

A Government spokesperson said:  “Our measures strike a balance between saving lives by protecting our NHS and the most vulnerable and minimising the wider impact on the economy and schools.

“The latest data suggests a considerable rise in the infection rate following people socialising in hospitality venues serving alcohol in recent weeks, so we have taken immediate action to cut the transmission rate and save lives and will keep all measures under constant review.

“The 10pm closure allows people to continue to socialise while reducing the risk of failing to socially distance.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter