Just three weeks into the 10pm curfew, Sadiq Khan has called for it to be lifted with immediate effect. Let’s take a look at the problems it has already caused for people around England so far.
Three weeks ago, Boris Johnson announced that a 10pm curfew would be imposed on pubs, bars and restaurants around the UK. The curfew means that last orders need to be made well before the clock strikes 10 so that all venue doors can shut on the dot. According to Johnson, this decision was made because “evidence shows that the spread of the disease does tend to happen later at night when more alcohol has been consumed”.
But this was immediately challenged and criticised by politicians, scientists and the public.
When leader of the opposition Keir Starmer asked if there was a scientific basis behind the 10pm curfew at PMQs, Johnson didn’t offer any evidence. A SAGE report from September said “curfews [are] likely to have a marginal impact”, although it added that it only had “low confidence” in that conclusion, suggesting there has been limited research into the question. And leading trade association UKHospitality called the curfew “another crushing blow” for a sector “already on its knees”.
With London now under a tier two lockdown, London mayor Sadiq Khan is now calling for an immediate end to the curfew.
“I have said for a while that the current curfew rule needs to be rapidly reviewed. We saw the worrying consequences of increased social mixing on the streets and on public transport in the capital around 10pm immediately after its introduction,” he said in a statement.
“Now London and other parts of the country have moved into tier two and higher restrictions, which prohibit household mixing, the current 10pm curfew policy makes even less sense and should be scrapped. Immediately scrapping the 10pm curfew would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening, helping with cashflow at a time when venues need all the support they can get.”
A lot of people living under tier two lockdown will know exactly what issues Khan is addressing here. Aside from the fact that our dates are being cut short and it’s too cold to do anything but go home after 10pm, it feels like we could be at more risk with the curfew in place.
Firstly, groups of people are being rushed, rounded up and sent out of the pubs at the same time. They all head to the Tube stations to get home, meaning some lines are at their busiest point throughout the day at around 10pm. And then there are the supermarkets, busy with gatherings of people looking to buy alcohol and food to take home.
“The few times I’ve been out staff have, perhaps understandably, been pretty stern and rude about getting people out,” Suze in Leeds tells Stylist. “And I’ve pretty much given up on dating completely because we have to meet and leave so early, which just feels weird. Also, last night, the Tesco I popped into was packed with people buying booze.”
All these large crowds of people doing the exact same thing at the exact same time after a drink or two makes the curfew seem pretty counterproductive, right?
And for people actually working in the industry, the problems run much deeper.
“It’s been very difficult from our side, too” London bartender Shona shares. “Our job roles have changed – we are now the fun police. The responsibility on the hospitality sector is immense and the rules and regulations that have been dropped on us are causing so much stress.
“Each day we are in fear of being shut down or fined tremendous amounts. Each day we are being challenged by rule-breaking customers who are putting our venues in jeopardy. The curfew has brought out the worst in people who are taking the 10pm closing to the minute just to be pedantic, coming out at lunch to get drunk and causing havoc just because they have to leave early.”
She adds: “I have been in this industry my entire adult life and have always loved it but this love has deteriorated at a rapid rate over the last few months, exasperated by the curfew which has now taken its toll on both customers and staff alike. I know from speaking to friends in the industry that we are all suffering and cracking under the pressure. We have done everything the government has asked and more and yet they still ask more and more. We are breaking point. We need support.”
But Steff, a bartender in Surrey, actually offers another perspective: “I feel that the 10pm closures of the pubs is great because it has made my job a lot more workable especially when having to wake up in the morning for my day job.”
However, she also says: “I will say that it has created a dangerous drinking habit of people trying to fit the same amount of drinks into a short period of time and becoming harder to handle for staff.”
Although Khan is asking for the curfew to be completely lifted, one other possible solution is giving venues more flexibility on closing times to allow customers to stagger their exits, as suggested by Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association.
We’re only three weeks into the curfew, which was initially proposed to be in place for six months, but it clearly can’t continue as it is. Johnson has not yet responded to Sadiq’s latest call to end the curfew, but we’ll have to see if he addresses it in the coming days.