Britain’s pubs have been required to close at 10pm every day since Thursday 24 September – a “crushing blow for many hospitality businesses” according to UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls and a measure that the Prime Minister warns could be in place for the next six months.
Leaders from the sector argue that mandatory 10pm closure is doing more harm to public health than good, with calls for an urgent review or for it to be matched with a cut-off time for alcohol sales in supermarkets and shops near deafening.
Night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, said scenes of packed high streets, off licences and public transport were predictable and highlighted a lack of Government engagement with the hospitality sector.
What’s more, the Premier League has already had to revise its fixture schedule to give fans the opportunity to watch games before pubs close in light of the 10pm rule.
In the words of The MA’s managing editor Nicholas Robinson: “It’s not as simple as kicking punters out and thinking they will quickly leave the area.”
With this in mind, The MA took to social media to ask its readers what steps they’ve been taking to get customers to drink up by 10pm.
With Parliament’s pub now bound by the same 10pm house rule, perhaps its operator can learn a thing or two for the next time he has to convince Boris Johnson to set down his pint and join teetotal chancellor Rishi Sunak at the door.
It’s like it’s our fault
We call last orders at 9.30, plastic takeaways for beers, food takeaway for slow eaters. last booking 8.30. Sounds easy but...!— The Leather Bottle (@LeatherBottlePH) September 30, 2020
When asked via Facebook and Twitter how they’d been chivvying customers off their premises by 10pm, readers revealed that they were generally calling last orders at either 9:15pm or 9:30pm in order to get customers out the door in time.
A number of operators added that any guests that haven’t drunk up in time are being offered their drinks in plastic glasses to finish at home.
“They are leaving really easily to be fair. Just hand out plastics at 9:50 and been done by 9:55 every night,” publican Ian Howarth commented on Facebook, while fellow operator Lesley Wright added: “Last orders by 9:15 plastic glasses for those who haven’t finished by 9:55.”
Last orders at 9.20pm in lieu of everyone being out before 10pm. Music goes off, garden emptied and front door shut too. Explanation of £10,000 fine given if required.— WhiteHorseInnDover (@WhiteHorseDover) September 29, 2020
However, a number of publicans revealed that enforced 10pm closure has caused friction with regulars and created staffing issues.
“Most nights, constant arguing with some locals not wanting to leave or order another drink after 9:45pm,” publican Amy Durnall explained, adding that “it’s like it’s our fault”, while fellow operator Di Belcher saying that she had received “back handed comments from the regulars”.
Christopher Evans added: “Last orders at 9:15 Friday and Saturday, have to have door staff now as town centre and always offered takeaway cups for unfinished drink,” while Karen Bear explained that paying extra staff to do table service and taking “no more money” was untenable.
Last orders 9:30-9:40, lights up, music off at 9:50. Proir to 9:30 we brief all guests of the impending bad news.— The Red Lion, Barnes (@RedLionBarnes) September 29, 2020
One for the road?
Brendan Padfield of the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, twice winner of the Front of House Team of the Year Award at the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs, explained that his team have moved first table bookings to 5pm – but feel that is just too early for most people to want to eat – with last bookings at 8:15pm.
The team are, however, offering diners who have booked a later table the option of ordering one course followed by a pudding to take home.
What’s more, the pub’s staff are telling regular customers that they can book for 8:30pm if they pre-order to speed up the process – something they may roll this out to other customers if successful.
According to Padfield the impact of curfew-related restrictions on his business will be huge with the operator forecasting that they’ll lose in the region of 40 covers per night on Friday and Saturdays – worth approximately £100,000 in business over six months.
However, in a bid to coax customers out the door in time, the Unruly Pig has introduced a “One for the Road” offer, which allows guests to choose any bottle of wine from their list to take home at 50% list price.
At beer houses operated by Manchester-based brewer Seven Bro7hers, guests are also being offered the opportunity to finish their drinks at home in light of the Government’s 10pm curfew.
“We will always adhere to whatever rules the UK Government puts in place and have done so since the reopening on 4 July,” owner Keith McAvoy explains.
“In the interest of safety we have been cashless since November, our staff wear masks all the time and we have introduced one way systems to ensure social distancing while moving around the premises.
“By the most part the general public have been great, and understand we have no choice but to close at 10pm,” he continued. “Last Orders are called at 9:30pm and the lights will go up around 9:50pm.
“We are offering takeaway draught beer in two-pint cartons for anyone who wishes to continue drinking at home. As the curfew continues, we will to see what other takeaway drinks we can offer as part of this service.
“We would love to see our beer houses and taproom open after 10pm, and of course we are frustrated by a curfew, but health will always come first.
“We have followed rules to the letter and I’m still shocked that not every venue is doing the same – this we believe hasn’t helped the sectors cause and won’t help the country get back on track.”