London as an alliance of restaurateurs, business leaders and politicians said it was no longer needed following the Tier 2 ban on household mixing.
They insisted that the Government’s justification for the rule — that it would stop infections spreading among people from different households — fell apart when the capital was last week put into the “high” level of coronavirus restrictions, which ban friends from socialising indoors.
Jeremy King, chief executive of restaurant group Corbin & King, which runs central London venues such as The Wolseley, said: “Of course the curfew, however well intentioned, was always a ridiculous initiative. Removing it would be a glimmer of light for hospitality, but more importantly if the Government was to admit that they have made a mistake by implementing it, it could be a massive turning point.”
Chris and Jeff Galvin, co-founders and chef patrons of the Galvin restaurants, said: “The curfew is now more pointless than ever. If our customers must all be from the same household or support bubble, what difference does it make whether they are sat in a restaurant at 10.30pm enjoying a glass of wine, or sat on the settee watching television?
“Surely both of these options are safer than them being thrust outside at 10pm, creating a pinch point on public transport.”
Jacob Kenedy, founder of Soho Italian Bocca di Lupo and gelato shop Gelupo, said: “A 10pm curfew on hospitality is not only retrograde butimbecilic: it compresses more people together in limited spaces for shorter times; surely to reduce transmission we should allow fewer people in a given space at any one time, and allow longer for businesses to stagger reservations?”
Chef Jason Atherton said: “The curfew was always pointless but now its just indefensible. I have never been so angry with a government and the way it has mismanaged our industry.”
Joe Grossman, founder of Patty&Bun said: “The 10pm curfew makes no sense and is just an extra barrier in a time where we’re trying to do everything we can safely, to survive.” Gavin Rankin, patron of Bellamy’s in Mayfair, warned that restaurants “all over London are entering their death throes”.
Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday called for an end to the “nonsensical” curfew for restaurants and urged Londoners to “continue to visit their favourite restaurant”.
He added: “Scrapping the 10pm curfew rule could make a real difference, allowing multiple sittings in restaurants throughout the evening — for some venues this could be the difference between going bust or their business staying above water until the Government get a grip of the virus.”
Business groups supported his call. John Dickie, director of policy at London First, said: “Now that London has entered Tier 2, there is no longer any reason to persist with the 10pm curfew.”
Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality said: “A relaxation or removal of the curfew would allow restaurants to add an extra sitting and allow for gradual dispersal, ensuring social distancing on the streets and public transport.”
She said revenues have dropped by more than 60 per cent due to successive restrictions, including curbs supported by Mr Khan. A third of venues were shut and more than 200,000 jobs at risk.
The 10pm early closing order for pubs, bars and restaurants was implemented on September 24. Last week 82 MPs voted to scrap it, including 42 rebel MPs but it was passed after Labour abstained.
Members of the House of Lords have said the curfew was having a “devastating” effect on the hospitality industry.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said the policy made only a “marginal” difference in tackling Covid-19.
However, health minister Lord Bethell insisted the regulation was “proportionate and necessary” to protect the public.
A source close to Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the curfew, saying: “Tier 2 restrictions have only just been brought in and you need to see how it impacts things. There has to be a cut-off at some time… it is always going to be a trade-off.”
The Government has said it will review the Tier 2 measures after they have been in place for a fortnight.