Following the announcement that the UK’s Covid-alert level was being raised from 3 to 4, indicating transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”, the prime minister said that from Thursday 24 September, businesses that serve food or drink would be required to close their doors between 10pm and 5am every day.
However, some businesses that serve food and drink are still able to operate after the 10pm cut-off, due to a loophole in the rules.
Here is everything you need to know.
Can some food and drink venues remain open after the 10pm curfew?
On the government’s website, it outlines that any venue that serves food and drink must cease business between 10pm and 5am.
While this rule also includes takeaway food and drink, there is an exception for delivery services – the distinction being that the product is brought to the customer at home rather than people going somewhere to collect it.
Drive-through services are also included in the exception, with customers remaining in their vehicles when they are served their orders.
“Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises, can continue to do so as long as this is through delivery service or drive-through,” the guidance stipulates.
This means that companies such as McDonald’s, which have a drive-through service, can continue to serve customers late at night and into the early hours.
Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, confirmed that more than 800 of the fast food restaurant’s franchises would continue serving customers 24 hours a day, offering delivery via Uber Eats and Just Eat.
Mr Pomroy stated that some restaurants may have to close depending on local lockdown restrictions being enforced in certain regions, adding: “We will be guided by local and national government regulations.”
What about venues like cinemas and theatres?
Arts venues such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls are also exceptions to the 10pm rule, depending on the starting time of performances.
If a film, play or performance starts before 10pm, then the venue where it is being shown is allowed to stay open past 10pm, the government states.
However, the venues are not allowed to serve food or drink past the cut-off point, in keeping with the 10pm curfew rules.
Why has the curfew been set at 10pm?
While the government has not explained exactly why 10pm has been chosen as the designated time for curfew at venues that serve food or drink, the rule follows similar restrictions that have already been set in areas of the country placed under local lockdowns.
This week, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the new measure, saying that the government was trying to strike “a balance” that “takes account of human character”.
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge’s Royal Academy of Engineering, told The Independent that the 10pm curfew “will likely have some benefit”, as “it is a clear sign that things are likely to change unless we can collectively limit our social contacts and heed the ‘hands, face, space and open a window’ message”.
“People are understandably asking what difference closing at 10pm makes. Well, as Professor Whitty said yesterday, the solution to this crisis is a collective effort," he said.
“It is about what we can all do, and notably what we can do to help protect others.”