London chefs today called for restaurants to be given a “Parisian-style” exemption from the 10pm curfew.
The new closure deadline for all hospitality venues in England was ordered last week by Boris Johnson as part of a package of measures to dampen the spread of coronavirus.
The curfew led to scenes of chaos in central London at the weekend, with diners and drinkers pouring on to the streets as the clocks struck 10.
Restaurateurs pointed to the staggered system in Paris, which began on Monday, where premises with bar licences must shut at 10pm but restaurants can trade later as long as their customers are eating.
One study suggested that allowing restaurants in the capital to stay open later could be worth nearly £1 billion in extra revenue by next March.
Michelin-starred Jason Atherton said: “This Parisian thing is a good idea. If we can get it I would back it 100 per cent. The situation in London is beyond farcical … It’s more unsafe now with everyone rushing to get on the Tube.” Tom Aikens, who runs Muse in Belgravia, said: “I would totally support letting restaurants stay open later. We’re just not in the same category as pubs and bars.
“The 10pm curfew is a total pain. We have a 10-course tasting menu and we’re doing last orders at 7.30pm. We’re actually moving it to seven because even 7.30 is a bit of a push.”
Angela Hartnett, who runs Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, also called for staggered closing for different types of business. She said: “They need to stop this policy. They are going to kill businesses. They say they’re following the science but there is no evidence that it was restaurants that screwed up.”
Nina Skero, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “Paris’s more nuanced approach to the hospitality sector attempts to address the issue of risky, potentially Covid-spreading behaviour encouraged by heavy alcohol consumption and close proximity to other patrons, without penalising restaurants which are far lower risk. In terms of the UK’s hospitality restrictions, more fine tuning is necessary.
Marcus Wareing has said he is “worried” as he prepares to reopen his restaurant after six months tomorrow.
The MasterChef: The Professionals judge, who holds a Michelin star for Marcus in The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge, said the 10pm curfew will “add pressure” on the struggling hospitality industry and called for it to be reviewed “ASAP”.
Wareing said he was “excited” to reopen, but added: “How am I feeling? Worried. Scared, unsure.” He added: “If I am honest, I have landlords and suppliers I owe money to… and nearly nothing in the bank.”
“Exempting restaurants from the 10pm curfew would [save] the hospitality sector £940 million in London and £3.8 billion across the UK as a whole.”
Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said: “I would consider it sensible to have a look at what Paris is doing and consider introducing similar measures.”`
Other voices in hospitality called for bars to recieve the same treatment as restaurants. “I think we’re all united in hospitality,” Gary Henshaw, owner of the Ku Group, told the Standard, “It seems to be that there’s a little bit of demonising towards the bar business rather than the restaurant business and I don’t think that’s fair. I think 99 per cent of bars have been just as responsible. And from my perspective, this curfew means 30 per cent of my turnover gone, 30 per cent of my business taken away.
“The big challenge is, at 10pm you’re asking me to throw out all my customers, close the doors and tell them to go home to bed – it doesn’t work. What they’re doing is finding unregulated areas to keep going – I think they are much safer in our environment. We’re regulated, we are licensed, we control the crowd, we have the right security, we know how to look after customers when they’re in our environment, when they want to drink and enjoy themselves.”
Victor Garvey of Sola and Adam Handling of the Frog expressed similar sentiments. “I think if bars are sit down, following the rules, not doing a stand-up rave, then they should be allowed to operate at their normal hours. The bar industry is suffering from no trade,” said Handling.
“The point is: we’re all competent operators who’ve been doing this for a long time,” added Garvey, “The stats are there to show that very few of these cases came from hospitality anyway.
“I don’t know why they’re taking this out on the people who are licensed to do this and who are well versed in doing so.”