Who did it best? How other countries are treating pubs during Covid-19 second spike

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Pandemic policy: from perimetral lockdowns to blanket on and off trade curfews, which Covid-19 approach to would you most like to see the British Government roll out?
Pandemic policy: from perimetral lockdowns to blanket on and off trade curfews, which Covid-19 approach to would you most like to see the British Government roll out?

Related tags Health and safety Legislation Europe United kingdom Coronavirus Scotland Northern ireland

With pandemic restrictions being imposed on hospitality businesses both across the UK and further afield, The Morning Advertiser (MA) has taken a closer look at how night spots in some of Europe's major cities are being affected by Covid-19's second spike.

The UK Government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and – in particular in relation to the the hospitality sector– has been contentious to say the least. 

As the Covid-restricted trading days, and flurry of Government statements, guidance and press conferences, continue to blur into one, operators across the country have found their ability to do business severely hampered by new measures including the controversial 10pm curfew, regional mixing bans and the closure of pubs across Scotland's central belt – with more rumoured to be in the pipeline.

However, Covid-19 infection rates aren't exclusively on the rise in the UK with governments across Europe being forced to rein in recovery plans in light of rising case numbers.

But how do the measures in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland compare to those on the continent?

For an 'at a glance' look at which measures are being imposed on pubs, bars and restaurants throughout Europe, check out The Morning Advertiser's​ (MA)​ interactive map below, or keep reading for a more in depth look and a chance to pick which you believe is the best. 


Since 24 September, hospitality business have been forced to comply with a 10pm curfew and cap table bookings at six people in line with Government mixing rules.

Under the raft of recent measures, venues must also operate table service only while customers are required to wear masks in pubs, bars and restaurants "except when seated at a table to eat or drink” since 28 September

Takeaways, however, can still be delivered after the 10pm deadline while supermarkets, shops and off licences can still sell alcohol 24-hours-a-day.

In addition to these trading restrictions, sterner mixing measures have been implemented in parts of the country, most recently spanning the Liverpool City Region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough​ – affecting some 2m people.

Some 16.6m people are believed to live in areas restricted by local lockdown measures across the UK – about one in four people, according to the BBC. 

Such measures make it illegal for households to meet in indoor settings, such as pubs and restaurants, across affected regions with Health Secretary Matt Hancock also recommending "against all social mixing between households".

Hancock has also advised people to limit themselves to “essential travel” only, which covers going to work – where working from home isn’t possible – and school.

However, as recently reported by The MA​, Nottingham’s night spots will receive mystery visits as well as social media and review site checks under the city’s new Covid-19 Aware Nightlife Accreditation Scheme​.

Claimed to be a UK first, it’s hoped that the scheme will pave the way for the city’s late-night venues to demonstrate their compliance with Covid-secure measures and reopen safely where they haven’t already done so.


As reported by The MA ​on 7 October​, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined further restrictions for pubs in Scotland, including the two-week closure of pubs in five areas – including Glasgow and Edinburgh – from 9 October.

In other parts of the country, venues will only be able to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm, serving food and non-alcoholic drinks only, though pubs can still serve alcohol outdoors.

There is an exemption from Sturgeon’s "tough but necessary actions" for occasions marking life events, such as weddings and funerals.

The First Minister said she wanted to be "honest" with the sector, not put them in a position where they were "all but closed" and lacking financial support. She revealed that an additional £40m would be made available to support businesses affected by these measures.


Like England, Wales has also introduced a 10pm curfew on hospitality businesses which, again, are required to offer table service only. However, unlike in England, shops and supermarkets have been banned from selling alcohol after this time.

These new rules have been in play since September 29 on top of local lockdown restrictions already enforced on two-thirds of the population including residents of the country's capital Cardiff plus Swansea and Llanelli.

"In the weeks and months ahead of us, there is a very real possibility we could see coronavirus regain a foothold in our local communities, towns and cities,” Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford said. “None of us wants to see that happen again.”

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has set its curfew for hospitality venues an hour later than the rest of the UK at 11pm, with last orders required at 10.30pm. This has dovetailed with rules banning any supermarket or shops from selling alcohol after pub and bar closures. 

According to HuffPost UK​, a number of Government insiders have been quietly impressed by Northern Ireland’s Covid-secure night-time hospitality measures, with few incidents of public overcrowding or house parties after closing time reported. 

Before the imposition of an 11pm curfew last month, Northern Ireland’s bars and pubs were allowed to stay open until 1am.

France (Paris and Marseille)

The French government ordered the closure of bars and cafés in Paris for two weeks from 6 October after declaring the city and its nearest suburbs to be zones of “maximum alert” following a period of high Covid-19 infection rates.

Restaurants, however, will be allowed remain open provided strict hygiene rules are in place.

France's maximum alert level comes into force when a local infection rate exceeds 250 infections per 100,000 people and at least 30% of intensive care beds are reserved for Covid-19 patients.

This comes after all bars and restaurants in France’s second largest city, Marseille, were ordered to close for two weeks on 26 September. 

On 4 October France reported 12,565 cases of Covid-19.

"These are braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast," police chief Didier Lallement said during a press conference on 5 October. "We have to slow it down so that our health system is not overwhelmed”.

Czech Republic

A state of emergency has been declared in the Czech Republic following a spike in Covid-19 infections. 

Over the past fortnight the country had the second highest number of new cases per 100,000 in Europe after Spain, and the fourth highest number of deaths. 

This has led to the imposition of restricted 6am to 10pm bar and restaurant opening hours, the banning of live music and, like the UK, a maximum of six people per table in hospitality businesses.

These restrictions will be in place for two weeks alongside respective 10 and 20 person caps on indoor and outdoor gatherings and the closure of secondary schools.

As previously reported by The MA​, sales from pub windows were allowed to continue throughout lockdown in the Czech Republic, with authorities allowing outside pubs, gardens and restaurant terraces to reopen from 11 May and trade resuming in indoor spaces two weeks later under strict social distancing measures.


Spain (Madrid)

Spanish capital Madrid recently entered a local lockdown on 2 October with its three million people only able to travel outside their neighbourhoods for essential journeys. 

Residents living in the surrounding cities of Alcalá, Alcobendas, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, Leganés, Móstoles, Parla and Torrejón have also been subject to perimetral lockdown.

What’s more, bars and restaurants cannot serve after 8pm and people cannot meet in groups larger than six.

Elsewhere, it was recently reported that Barcelona will host a test-on-entry event that will hold a capacity of 1,000 people whereas parties of more than five people have been banned under partial lockdown measures in Ibiza with bars and restaurants required to close at 10pm according to the Balearic Islands government.


Germany (Berlin)

In Germany, nightlife in the capital Berlin has seen its first curfew imposed in 70 years amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

On 6 October, two of the three “traffic lights” that make up the city’s coronavirus warning system switched to red after authorities recorded 44.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the week prior. 

In addition to the reproduction rate, the traffic light system gauges the number of new infections as well as the required beds for Covid-19 patients in intensive care units.

The rate of new cases in inner-city districts synonymous with Berlin’s nightlife were higher still with four of the seven hotspots listed by Germany’s disease control agency for having a seven-day incidence of more than 50 cases per 100,000 people found the heart of the capital. 

The latest update from Germany’s national health authority, the Robert Koch institute, explained: "The situation in the affected districts of Berlin is a result of diverse factors, including young people, international travellers and party-goers who contract the disease while out partying and then take these infections home with them to their co-residents or families."

Consequently, an 11pm to 6am curfew is being imposed on bars and restaurants, while there will be restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

Outdoors, a maximum of five people from a maximum two households, will be allowed to gather while private indoor parties will be restricted to ten people. 

These measures are slated to stay in place until the end of October.


Belgium (Brussels)

All bars, cafes and event halls in Belgian capital Brussels have been told they must shut down for at least a month from 7am on 8 October while social bubbles have been capped at four people. 

While restaurants in Brussels will remain open in an attempt to keep the hospitality industry afloat, Rudi Vervoort, the minister-president of the Brussels capital region, has banned drinking alcohol in public spaces.

Across the rest of the country, hospitality venues are subject to an 11pm curfew while social bubbles are limited to 10 people.

The Belgian government’s policy of limiting people to small social bubbles was cited by health secretary Matt Hancock in September as inspiration for Britain’s approach, however infection rates in Belgium have risen steadily. 

The average number of new coronavirus infections in Brussels was 2,466 per day between 27 September and 3 October, an increase of 57% from the previous week with Belgium’s new prime minister, Alexander De Croo, recently confirming that Belgians would be limited to just three close contacts outside their household.


While Estonia is currently only making recommendations that people wear masks and socially distance, its government recently approved a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from midnight until 10am anywhere that sells alcohol for on-site consumption, such as bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Which gets your vote?


Which do you think works best?

  • England’s current 10pm curfew and local lockdown approach

  • Wales 10pm curtain on all alcohol sales

  • Northern Ireland, 11pm blanket curfew on pubs, bars, off-licences etc.

  • Scotland’s 16-day closure and broader restrictions

  • Madrid’s perimetral lockdown and 8pm bar curfew

  • Paris style approach – passing of ‘maximum alert’ threshold means bars close, but Covid-secure restaurants stay open

  • Berlin-style traffic light system. Red lights mean harsher restrictions including hospitality curfew

  • Czech Republic-style limited hours under two-week ‘state of emergency’

  • Estonia’s midnight to 10am alcohol sales ban and recommendations that people wear masks and socially distance

  • Brussels’ month-long closure and social bubble cap


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