Thursday, 29 Oct 2020

Crowds turfed out of pubs by police as 10pm curfew kicks in

Police turfed lingering revellers out of England’s pubs last night as a 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector kicked in.

Metropolitan Police officers including Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick enforced the new coronavirus restrictions as bar and restaurant staff cleared tables and chairs off the streets.

One sign at a bar in Soho, central London, told customers enjoying their last drink to ‘Get Out to Help Out’ in a dig to how quickly the rules have changed since people were encouraged to visit their local pubs and restaurants under ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ in August.

In student cities such as Preston, Leeds, Brighton and Newcastle, freshers were pictured carrying boxes of wine home with them so they could carry on socialising.

Cabinet Minister Micheal Gove previously said it was fine to carry on drinking at someone else’s home after the curfew kicks in, as long as groups stick to the ‘rule of six’.

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The new measures were brought in to bring down soaring rates of the virus and are expected to last six months.

Nightlife hot-spots up and down the country were empty after 10 with some pictures showing punters downing their last pint on the street after being cleared out by staff.

A small police presence could be seen in Soho, central London on Thursday night,   though no problems were reported.

Meanwhile Wolverhampton Police posted a video on Twitter thanking the public for complying with the new regulations, saying all venues had shut at 10pm.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who is leading the Met’s response to the pandemic, said the ‘vast majority of Londoners’ have stuck to the rules and ‘responded positively to the unprecedented situation we are in’.

He thanked people for being compliant but warned that there is a ‘renewed need for everyone to do everything they can to minimise the risk of transmission of what is a potentially deadly disease’.

He said police would be firm with people who ‘refuse to comply’ with new laws and ‘deliberately place communities at risk’.

He also urged the public to report serious breaches to 101, but suggested resources were strained with non-covid realted crimes returning to pre-lockdown levels.

‘We urge the public to continue to report serious breaches to us via the 101 telephone system or using our online reporting system.

‘However, we should all bear in mind that there are a number of exemptions to the rules which may apply to any situation so an apparent breach may not be what it appears and not every call may generate an immediate police response,’ said Dept Twist.

‘Additionally, demands on the Met from crime, non-Covid related anti-social behaviour and protests are returning to pre-Covid levels so we will continue to respond to these alongside the pandemic in order to keep Londoners safe.’ 

The new restrictions come as a blow to the hospitality sector which was struggling to bounce back from lockdown after three months of closures.

On Thursday Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of new measures to help businesses survive the second wave of the pandemic – but there has been criticism they don’t go far enough.

The British Beer & Pub Association welcomed the extension of the VAT cut but said it should be in place longer and extended to alcohol. They also warned the new Job Support Scheme which tops up two thirds of workers wages won’t go far enough in saving jobs as it will cost employers more than the furlough scheme,

Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said:  ‘Following the additional restrictions announced earlier this week and their devastating impact on the already precarious situation our sector is in, we were really hoping for a strong package of support today.

‘Some elements of the Chancellor’s plan today are welcome, but do not go nearly far enough to save the thousands of pubs and jobs that we have highlighted are at serious risk. ‘

She also called on the Chancellor to extend business rates relief for pubs, which face a ‘cliff edge’ come March ‘when they will have to pay on average £25,000 each per rate paying pub’.

She added: ‘That’s a cost of £800 million to the sector which will be the final straw for many pubs. We need the Chancellor to review this and extend the business rates holiday as a matter of urgency. 

‘Increasing access to Government loans, and extending the lengths to pay them back, will help some pubs, but for many, taking on further debt in the form of a loan isn’t even a viable option – particularly at this stage. 

‘We need the Government to recognise that consumer confidence is fragile and the additional restrictions that could be in place for a further six months will only make this worse.

‘We are asking them to consider ways they can help boost consumer confidence including running the successful Eat Out To Help Out scheme again and offering sector specific grants for pub businesses.’

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