The trade has called for the restriction to be scrapped and for the evidence behind the decision for the early closure.
In the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday 1 October), Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans Daisy Cooper said: “As the House will know, the original urgent question was about the 10pm pubs curfew and it is clear after this statement, the Government is simply not listening.
“It seems to be covering its eyes and ears and singing la la la la. You say this is under review but where is the evidence? The evidence is clear.
“The 10pm pubs curfew has been a hammer blow to hospitality and turfing crowds of people out of Covid-secure venues on to the streets is putting lives and livelihoods at risk.
“Since reopening in July, businesses on every single one of our high streets have put blood, sweat and tears into making their venues Covid-secure but they are trading at a reduced capacity and now with this pubs curfew some of them have seen a reduction by a further 50%.
“The PM announced this blanket 10pm closing time just last Tuesday. Within hours, the industry warned it would lead to chaos on the streets and it did.
“The shocking truth is this Government has, by its own admission, made no assessment of the cost of this measure to the industry.
“SAGE has confirmed it was never even consulted on whether a 10pm curfew would be effective. Now experts are telling us it is making the risk of Covid transmission worse."
Cooper added: “Public Health England’s weekly surveillance reports are clear. Outbreaks of the virus in hospitality venues are responsible for less than 3% of all cases and they have not contributed to any of the increase and yet this Government, is making thousands upon thousands of hospitality jobs unviable, undermining public health and killing our high streets.
“The Government likes to talk about balance and tough choices it has to make between public health and the economy but the shocking truth is the pubs curfew is bad for both and the longer the Government defends it, the more damage it will do.
“People are scared, care homes are becoming prison like, students are being locked up and businesses are saying without a further package of support, they will be closed by Christmas.
“I asked for some evidence behind this measure – he has provided none and that is why this curfew must be scrapped today.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock responded to Cooper and said: “The virus spreads most outside of households when other households meet together, including hospitality venues.
He added it was “safer” for people to be outside than inside when he was challenged about the curfew resulting in crowded streets at 10pm.
In a statement prior to Cooper’s response, Hancock said the virus spreads by social contact and so has had a terrible impact on the hospitality sector, “which in good times exists to encourage the very social contact that we all enjoy”.
He said: “We have had to take difficult but necessary decisions to suppress the virus. The only alternative to suppressing the virus is to let it rip, and I will not do that. I know many of the individual rules are challenging, but they are necessary and there are those early signs that they are working.
“In the measures we have introduced, including the 10pm restriction, we are seeking to strike a balance, allowing people to continue to socialise safely where that is possible while reducing the social contact that the virus thrives on.
“Elsewhere in the world, they have introduced an evening restriction and then seen their case numbers fall. We know that later at night, people are less likely to follow social distancing.”
Hancock did say the measures will be kept under review and the impact will be closely monitored.
“While continuing our unprecedented support for hospitality businesses by cutting VAT, supporting the pay of staff, offering rates relief for businesses and giving billions of pounds of tax deferrals and loans," he added.
“Our hospitality industry provides so much colour and life in this country, and we will do whatever we can to support it while acting fast to keep the virus under control.
“I know these measures are hard, and that they are yet another sacrifice after a year of so many sacrifices already, but there are some signs that what we are doing together to respond to these awful circumstances is starting to work, so do not let up. Let’s all of us keep doing our bit, and one day over this virus we will prevail.”
In response, Cooper tweeted: “Government statement on 10pm pub curfew [is] pathetic. We’ve asked for evidence, it’s provided none.
“It’s a hammer blow to hospitality and turfing crowds out of Covid-secure venues onto streets is putting lives at risk.
“Government Test & Trace still a shambles, now everyone is paying the price.”