Minutes from a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) show that scientists had “low confidence” in the impact of a curfew when it was discussed a few weeks ago.
The 10pm cut-off was introduced on Thursday 24 September despite pub bosses identifying few instances of coronavirus transmission across their estates.
The sector has since called for more evidence from ministers to justify claims that the measure will benefit public health.
Many high streets and city centres have been pictured heaving with pubgoers as they simultaneously leave venues, in addition to concerns over increased house parties.
Scientific advisers looked at the impact of closing bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants at a meeting on 21 September and mentioned they felt a curfew would not have a significant impact.
Unnecessary and unfounded
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the sector had been calling for robust evidence the curfew was necessary and the Sage leak proved it was a justified measure.
“The recommendation from Sage confirms what we knew all along – the 10pm curfew is unnecessary and unfounded in fighting the virus," she said.
“During this crisis every hour of trading is crucial to the survival of our sector. The economic impact of the curfew is devastating our pubs and brewers’ chances of a recovery.
“We continue to call for a proportionate response to the virus based on tangible transmission evidence. As such, the curfew should be removed imminently based on this information from Sage.”
UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls has been calling for the curfew to be scrapped in areas with low infection rates.
“The curfew was brought in without any compelling evidence that it would impact Covid," she said. "Now we see that the recommendations were that it would barely help. It is squeezing the remaining life out of businesses and must be reconsidered, at the very least in those areas where Covid rates are low.”
The Sage minutes also referenced the challenges for pub environments in reducing transmission.
It said: “Environmental risk in bars, pubs etc is likely to be higher than many other indoor settings due to close proximity of people, long duration of exposure, no wearing of face coverings by customers, loud talking that can generate more aerosols. Some venues are poorly ventilated, especially in winter.”
Circuit breaker urged
Advisers instead recommended an immediate "circuit breaker" of strict national and local measures to curb the virus.
Pubs have had to follow strict requirements since opening on Saturday 4 July after the shutdown, including social distancing between tables and rigorous cleaning.
MPs will vote today (Tuesday 13 October) on a raft of retrospective coronavirus measures in addition to the new tiered system of restrictions announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night.
However, it is understood that the Labour party will abstain and not oppose the 10pm curfew.
The Government has outlined three tiers of virus measures, with pubs in Liverpool ordered to close unless they serve alcohol with a meal within the strictest tier.
Operators in the second tier of restrictions have told The Morning Advertiser they are worried about the prospect of remaining open under the weight of heavy restrictions, including bans on different households mixing.