Or perhaps it’s more sinister? Is Boris deliberating trying to kill off hospitality? I’m not sure he’s the temperance type, but…
Call me a cynic, but EOTHO (Eat Out to Help Out) could now be construed as having set pubs and restaurants up as the patsy. “Let’s make all venues log every customer, we’ll convince everybody to go out, then we can trace all the COVID-19 cases back there and close ’em down”. Except the numbers didn’t support that. Hospitality venues have been responsible for less than 5% of transmissions in all the reports I’ve seen. I also read that less than 1% of venues were ever notified they’d had a transmission or positive case on their premises via track and trace.
How about that ‘curfew’? Except it isn’t, because you can still stay out and drink on the street, a curfew would mean having to be home, inside… In actual fact it does little more than ensure everybody leaving venues does so at the same time, increasing the chances of spread as people are piled out onto the streets together. Queuing for public transport together, over burdening the night time infrastructure and causing crowds and encouraging drinking on the street where people had previously been socially distancing in clean, regulated premises. Let’s not forget the most recent significant changes to licensing law in 2003 staggered closing times to avoid crowds and relieve pressure on public transport and police. Why reverse that in the middle of a pandemic where the virus spreads most easily through close contact?
What about tier 2, excluding groups from different households from meeting inside pubs? That was a pretty substantial nail in the coffin for lots of businesses… Coupled with the 10pm limit this has entirely reversed the goodwill event during EOTHO. It’s devastated consumer confidence in going out despite the incredibly safe environments hospitality have worked hard, and spent much money on implementing. Of course if it’s a business meeting that’s fine, because apparently COVID hates meetings and just won’t hang around if your talking shop! This exemption does nothing but highlight the ridiculous variations and continued ambiguity in all the rules we’ve been asked, or forced, to follow.
The latest lockdown, arguably far too late to be rapidly effective, now excludes pubs and restaurants from selling alcohol with their takeout offering. Aside from leaving independent businesses, including breweries and the supply chain, hanging as to what they can do with their stock, this will just encourage people to make 2 stops when they’re out instead of one. They’ll grab their food from the pub, some booze from the supermarket, now they’ve helped inadvertantly spread that virus, or exposed themselves to more risk than if they just got their beers from when they got their meal.
So Boris, if by some miracle your are reading this instead of making crass jokes about COVID sparing us time with ‘the inlaws’ this Christmas then here’s a few things you need to do for an industry which employes millions of people, generates millions in tax revenues, drives tourism (in more normal times) and serves as a vital safety blanket for many people’s mental well-being. I promise it’s not difficult.
1) Allow off sales (in closed containers) during lockdown
2) Post lockdown remove the 10pm closing time
3) Ensure better financial support during Tiers 2 and 3 when they return not just for pubs and restaurants, but for the supply chain that’s affected too.
I said it keep it simple, and I’ve always been told goals should be achievable, so I have resisted the urge to call for a resignation, I appreciate that won’t happen until you’ve completely fucked brexit up for lost of us while ensuring all your rich buddies get richer.
I want to finish by saying I believe COVID is a real threat, one we should have taken far more seriously far sooner. I believe we should do whatever it takes (based on real scientific and medical guidance) to stem this virus. However, we need to do it by ensuring the most vunerable are protected (health wise and financially), we need consistent messaging and rules, we need to keep our economy going as much as possible and with substantial financial support for those (tax paying) businesses that are affected.
My heart goes out to all the businesses facing more turmoil, anguish and uncertainty.