The 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants in England should be reviewed every three weeks and scrapped if found to be ineffective, according to an open letter to the prime minister from 100 major hospitality firms, who have won backing from MPs.
In a co-ordinated plea, three trade bodies said they were facing the “bleakest of winters”, with curfews piling more misery on a sector that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter, signed by firms including JD Wetherspoon and Burger King, warns that half of the UK’s 100,000 hospitality firms already feared they would not survive beyond the middle of 2021, before the restriction on late-night trading was introduced.
It says the curfew has “made this fight to survive even harder” and called on the government to review the restriction every three weeks and abandon it if it is shown to have little impact on the spread of coronavirus.
The industry issued the warning as a cross-party group of 25 MPs, led by Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper, called on the government to publish any scientific evidence for the efficacy of what they called a “completely arbitrary measure”.
Pubs, bars and restaurants have been cruelly hit by a perfect storm of more restrictions and less financial support.
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) September 29, 2020
Mounting criticism of the curfew follows claims from the industry and from figures such as Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham that it is doing more harm than good.
Critics have pointed out that people are spilling out of pubs and restaurants en masse and crowding onto public transport or, in some cases, gathering informally in the street or in homes.
Last week, bar chain Revolution said it was weighing up plans to close some of its city centre venues, citing the curfew among the reasons.
The government was also forced into an apparent U-turn on a plan to allow bars in parliament an exemption as they were classed as works canteens.
Trade bodies and industry figures have previously lined up to denounce the measure, with JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin branding it “utterly stupid”.
The open letter to Boris Johnson, signed by the British Beer & Pub Association, UK Hospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping, will ramp up the pressure to reconsider or at least mitigate it with a support package for hospitality firms.
The trade bodies said the winter economic plan announced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, last week “does not go nearly far enough for our imperilled sector”.
They urged the prime minister to remove employer contributions for the hospitality sector to the job support scheme and provide a package of grant funding for business subject to restrictions.
They also want the VAT cut on hospitality and the business rates holiday to be extended through 2021, accompanied by a cut in beer duty.
The letter asks the prime minister to intervene urgently and offers a meeting of sector leaders to help draw up a support package to avert “the devastating damage that is drawing ever closer”.
Signatories include pub groups Heineken and Greene King, as well as restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut, Prezzo and Azzurri Group and nightclub business Deltic.