Stonegate CEO Simon Longbottom has told MCA the 10pm curfew is a “devastating blow” to the hospitality sector and a “perilous turning point”.

Describing a fractious balance of trying to protect jobs against accumulating government measures, he told MCA last week’s new restrictions would have a major impact on the viability of late-night businesses. 

Urging the Government to step in to help with sector specific support, he railed against the imposition of last hour conditions, despite millions of pounds worth of investment in repurposing the estate’s venues.

So far during the coronavirus crisis, Stonegate under Longbottom and chairman Ian Payne has limited their comments to the press, preferring to support the communications of trade bodies UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association.

The decision to publicly remonstrate with government policy indicates the depth of exasperation felt at the pub and bar company, as well as its exposure to late night at Walkabout, All Bar One, Fever Bars and Popworld.

“Our late-night business continues to suffer with many remaining closed since March and those repurposed now facing a fresh challenge with a 10pm curfew,” Longbottom told MCA.

”We are working to protect jobs and with every new instruction this delicate balance fractures further. There is no doubt that the latest restrictions will have a major impact on the viability of many of our late-night businesses and on the jobs that support our pubs and bars.

“The introduction of the Job Support Scheme doesn’t go far enough to help and does little to relieve the pressure on those businesses that have not yet been able to open. In our city centres many pubs remain closed as businesses are advised to keep employees working from home so custom has disappeared. Confidence levels have fallen and the fear factor has begun to bite.

“The restrictions put on pubs to close at 10pm was a devastating blow to our industry and is a perilous turning point for many. We have consistently worked within the Government guidelines to ensure we provide a safe environment for our staff and customers making our businesses Covid-19 compliant.

“These guidelines have continually escalated to now include enforced closure at 10pm; the requirement for table service; the rollout of mandatory Test and Trace posters and support for the NHS app along with the compulsory wearing of face coverings. Millions of pounds has been invested in helping our publicans businesses survive the pandemic through providing business support and rent concessions as well as transforming our managed venues into hospitable, socially distant environments whilst maintaining the atmosphere our customers enjoy.

“We fully understand our responsibilities in helping to stop the spread of the virus, however it is exceptionally difficult to continue to work with a myriad of conditions imposed at short notice throughout the country. There is little evidence to suggest pubs are responsible for the latest increase having been trading since July. The decision to restrict well-regulated and controlled premises from remaining open beyond 10pm will not stop people continuing to drink either in homes or at illegal gatherings putting further pressure on the police and authorities.

“The Government must step in to help with sector specific support given the restrictions that have been placed upon us.”