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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 22nd Sep 2020 - Operators vent anger over curfew as restrictions in England set to be in place for six months
Operators vent anger over curfew as restrictions in England set to be in place for six months: Operators have vented anger over the 10pm curfew being imposed on hospitality venues in England as prime minister Boris Johnson warned the new restrictions could be in place for six months. Johnson also announced face coverings would now be mandatory for staff and customers in hospitality settings except when people were actually eating or drinking and made it clear doors must be shut at 10pm. He warned venues that failed to adhere to the rules faced being shut down. Des Gunewardena, chief executive and co-founder of D&D London, said: “A 10pm curfew on our restaurants will be very damaging. Since reopening we have been very reliant on the strength of our weekend business, much of which is later evening. This has mitigated the impact of early and midweek business, which has been much more challenging with the absence of office workers and tourists. Our large West End restaurants such as Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street, which only reopened a few weeks ago, will be particularly hard hit. This move is a kick in the teeth for central London and in particular the West End where footfall was gradually starting to increase. It is very difficult to understand the logic for this decision. Public Health England’s (PHE) own statistics clearly indicate the recent significant increase in covid infections is in care homes, schools and workplaces. It is not in pubs and restaurants. In fact less than 5% of infections are taking place in pubs and restaurants. And PHE is also reporting covid infections are rising in the north east and north west of England ,but they are apparently not rising in London and the south east. So why impose a curfew ? Quite feasibly the health situation could actually get worse if after 10pm people left covid-safe environments in restaurants and bars in order to continue to socialise in each other's homes.” Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of The Stafford Collection, added: “I'm hugely frustrated, angry and concerned about the new 10pm national curfew. It's baffling the government would spend £522m on the brilliant Eat Out To Help Out scheme last month, encouraging the British public to eat out as much as possible, and now we are back to being enemy number one. Thanks to the scheme, we've taken staff off furlough to cope with the demand of customers – what do we do with them now? Once again we've seen a huge change of strategy and it's going to kill off so much of the hospitality industry when we're proven to be some of the safest businesses in the UK thanks to our new distancing, cleaning and internal tracing measures. Within the Stafford Collection, 19% of all reservations are made for dinner post 9pm, not including walk-ins and hotel guests in the bar. This is a huge chunk of business that will now disappear for no good reason. Does the virus only come out post 10pm? As an industry, we had just started to claw our way back from a catastrophic start to 2020, but this will be the nail in the coffin for so many in the hospitality and tourism sector. Jack Stein, chef-director of Rick Stein Group, said: “As of today, we are going to have to contact more than 900 customers who have reservations in our pub and restaurants to rearrange their bookings that means disappointment for some, many cancellations and more lost revenue for us after months of closure. The vast majority of our restaurants are in Cornwall, an area where the infection rate is still very low so it's difficult to understand the reasoning of a nationwide curfew. I think the government is right to impose tighter restrictions on areas where there is a dangerously high rate, however that isn't us, so it's a tough pill to swallow. Once again, we're relying on the government to take the scientific advice and form policy to minimise a second wave and help us reopen fully as soon as we can.” Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset, of The Black Book, Soho, added: “Holding a late night licence in Soho is like gold dust these days, but of course it won’t mean much come Thursday. It would seem the odds are stacked, especially for this part of London were we can’t rely on locals to pop in for a quick drink before simply walking home. It feels particularly disappointing considering all the precautions the industry has so tirelessly been implementing to ensure we are safe. It’s a blow for sure.” Gregory Marchand, chef-owner of Frenchie in Covent Garden, said: “Sudden closures, inconsistent openings, changes in public behaviour resulting from health guidance for operations and further changes imposed by the government all in the hope to limit infection rates from surging, have pushed our industry to the brink of collapse. The latest government announcement means we would most probably have to reduce our capacity even further and be expected to survive, be viable and look after our staff at the same time. It’s total madness. Our business relies heavily on bookings made around and after 8pm, so this will inevitably affect our trade. We agree that there needs to be measures in place so we can contain and fight the disease, however, it’s really hard to understand how a 10pm curfew is the solution to this. We’ve already made sure we’re operating as safely as possible and we have followed the government's advice. Now, we’re expecting the government to show its commitment and support to our industry as many livelihoods depend on it.” Marcos Fernandez, managing director of Arros QD and Iberica, added: “Just as the Eat Out To Help Out scheme had different impacts on various business throughout the UK, this new curfew will as well. For us at Arros QD and Iberica, we don't see a huge amount of trade post 10pm so it's unlikely that we will see a huge financial difference. Unfortunately, this isn't the case throughout the UK. In locations such as Mayfair and Soho where the rates are significant, operators need to maximise their space as much as possible. Also looking at bars and pubs in particular, they are hugely reliant on late night trade so this could be a real disaster for them. Regardless of the impact this will have on Arros and Iberica, I do not think this is a good policy. It is clearly the kneejerk reaction of a government who can't implement an effective track and trace system and it is hospitality which is being used as a scapegoat. Ian Churchill, operations director at Crockers Henley, said: “It's disappointing the government is targeting an already battered and bruised hospitality sector with a curfew. Businesses have invested heavily to ensure they are covid-secure and many are just about keeping their heads above water – these new measures will be the final nail in the coffin for many operators. Alasdair Elwick, general manager at The Forest Side in the Lake District, added: “The curfew isn’t ideal for anyone. However, we had already put things in place operationally to ensure we can operate as ‘normal’ to allow our loyal guests to get the experience we are so proud to offer.”

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