Nosy council inspectors have been peering through letterboxes and windows in an effort to track down pubs and clubs holding lock-ins past the coronavirus curfew.

The City of Westminster Council workers were caught in the act peeping into venues in usually-bustling Soho in London.

Restrictions currently in place throughout England ban venues from being open after 10pm to try and slow down the spread of Covid-19 infections.

E-commerce consultant Dan Barker spied the inspectors in action and took pictures, which he uploaded to his Twitter feed.

He wrote: ‘Strange sight – City Inspectors, working through Soho, looking for illegal speakeasies open after the 10pm cutoff.’

The inspectors were seen peering through letter boxes in Soho by stunned passers-by

The inspectors were seen peering through letter boxes in Soho by stunned passers-by

The City Inspectors from City of Westminster Council also looked through windows

The City Inspectors from City of Westminster Council also looked through windows

Even world-famous Ronnie Scott's was not immune as the inspectors took a close look

Even world-famous Ronnie Scott’s was not immune as the inspectors took a close look

The workers are from City of Westminster Council and acted after the new rules came in

The workers are from City of Westminster Council and acted after the new rules came in

Later he told Yahoo UK: ‘I’d guess I saw them looking into a dozen or so places – the area has quite a lot of pubs and bars.

‘It took me a moment to process what they were doing at first. I saw them again 15 minutes or so later outside the Hippodrome, which is usually open 24/7.’

It came as revellers who headed into town and city centres to enjoy a few drinks last night were turfed out of pubs and restaurants as the country’s first 10pm pub and restaurant curfew began.

Chairs and tables were left empty after customers enjoying drinks with friends on outside tables in Soho, central London, were told to ‘get out to help out’ by hospitality staff as the Government’s curfew came into effect.

Metropolitan Police officers including Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick enforced the new coronavirus restrictions last night as bar and restaurant staff cleared tables and chairs off the streets before 10pm.

Others enjoyed a drink at pub beer gardens in London Bridge while for others the restrictions caused a few cancellations as revellers feared their meals would be cut short.

Table service rules guidelines ‘unclear and unfair’, say hospitality business owners

Cafe, restaurant and pub owners have criticised the new table service rule as unclear and unfair.

The Government announced that from Thursday, ‘licensed premises’ in the hospitality sector will have to serve customers at tables to avoid them congregating at tills and bars, as part of new coronavirus guidelines announced on Tuesday.

Cabinet minister Dominic Raab suggested this will include fast-food chains such as McDonald’s.

Cafe owners have suggested they will not be able to operate using table service only, while other chains have said they do not consider the rules to apply to them.

Atkinsons Coffee Roasters, which owns several cafes in Lancashire, has said the new table service rule shows the Government ‘does not understand or even acknowledge the cafe sector’.

A spokesperson said the current system of requiring customers to queue two metres apart while wearing a face covering, and having screens at their tills with cashless payments, is already Covid-secure.

They said: ‘It’s all about pubs and restaurants. We don’t need table service only. We already have Covid-secure systems in place.’

A spokesperson for Caffe Nero said they did not consider cafes to be included in the table service rule, while Costa Coffee could not confirm whether it would be serving customers at the tills or using table service. 

Trade association UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said policy changes ‘on a daily basis’ and inconsistencies between devolved governments are leading to confusion for hospitality bosses. 

She said: ‘Our understanding is that quick-service restaurants will be exempt from the new rules, but there is certainly a degree of confusion. Businesses have been given next to no time to implement rules that have been introduced with no consultation from the industry and we are rushing around to try to interpret them. These restrictions are going to have a huge impact.’

However, bars and pubs have come up with an inventive new way to get around the Government’s curfew – opening hours earlier. 

Music bars are set to open their doors as early as 3pm on the weekend and other venues have introduced unlimited drink deals from 10am.    

It comes as swathes of people were filmed heading home after a busy night in central London last night, when all the city’s bars closed at the same time as the curfew kicked in.        

Popworld bars in York and Liverpool will open from 4pm on Fridays and 3pm on Saturdays amid the latest restrictions, with the bar also offering 50 per cent off deals until 8pm. 

Elsewhere, Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is offering a ‘bottomless brunch’ with unlimited cocktails from 10am, with an extended happy hour in place until 8pm.

Announcing the updated hours on Twitter, it said: ‘Guess we’ll just have to start a little bit earlier then Boris…’  

Other establishments have also encouraged drinkers to start their night earlier, teasing drinks and dinner offers on social media. 

Source Bar at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, said: ‘Don’t forget! New coronavirus restrictions mean we’ll be closing at 10pm every evening.

‘So head down early with your housemates to check out our dinner and drinks deals!’   

The Drapers Arms in Hackney, London, also put out a call to drinkers.  

‘Our booking system remains open until 9pm,’ it said last night. ‘Apart from anything else we remain a pub and you are still welcome to come and just have a drink.

‘We’ve got a few bottles that would struggle to last 59 minutes. I also think if you walk in, sit down and order a steak and a glass we could get that done.’ 

The first night of the curfew caused London’s streets to fill up with hundreds of revellers on Thursday as all the city’s bars emptied at the same time. 

Kirsty Lewis, 24, from north-west London, shared a video of the moment people exited pubs and restaurants on Oxford Street with the caption ’10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months’.  

She added: ‘I think most people were socially distanced, or at least trying to be, from other groups – but as you can see in the video that got a bit tricky and was a problem as they all tried to crowd onto tubes.

‘I know that a lot of people were discussing going back to their houses or flats for more drinks instead, where they would have just usually stayed out in the bars or restaurants later.

‘Also from the restaurant side of it, the owner of the place I went to seemed very upset having to turf people out… will have obviously limited his income.

‘My friend and I actually walked to a tube station a couple of stops further away to try and avoid the main business so then it wasn’t as bad.’ 

BRISTOL: Pubs and restaurants in the West Country obeyed the curfew last night

BRISTOL: Pubs and restaurants in the West Country obeyed the curfew last night

LONDON: Empty tables in Soho showed that revellers and establishments were obeying rules

LONDON: Empty tables in Soho showed that revellers and establishments were obeying rules

NEWCASTLE: Drinkers were left out in the cold after north east pubs shut at 10pm on the dot

NEWCASTLE: Drinkers were left out in the cold after north east pubs shut at 10pm on the dot

Health experts today deemed reports of earlier opening and cheap incentives a ‘worrying development,’ suggesting discounted drinks may ‘impair judgement’ and lead to reduced social distancing. 

Medical researcher Dr Stephen Griffin told MailOnline: ‘I completely understand that businesses are struggling and that the hospitality trade has been hit hard – it is understandable that venues may have to resort to this action as a result of this policy. 

‘However, whilst at-table service may limit some interactions, there seems little point of enforcing early closing times if by opening early the same number of people will visit a given establishment. 

‘Furthermore, if cheap alcohol is on offer then this may impair judgement and lead to reduced compliance with social distancing. 

‘We must remember that ventilation and the wearing of face coverings are key factors in preventing Covid-19 transmission, and these factors should be considered by all of us when attending any hospitality venues – whilst wearing a mask is obviously not an option whilst eating and drinking, perhaps patrons should be asked to wear them whilst moving around, such as when coming or going or going to the toilets. 

‘Outside seating is obviously the best solution, whilst observing the rule of six, social distancing and good hygiene.’ 

He added he struggled with the idea of closing venues at 10pm due to ‘concern that this might merely compress the hours in which people socialise, making places busier, or indeed promote earlier starts.’

Dr Griffin said: ‘I understand the intent was to prevent people moving on to late night venues, yet this idea was subsequently clouded by ministers suggesting it was OK to go on and mix at private homes under the rule of six.’  

Popworld bars in York and Liverpool will open from 4pm on Fridays and 3pm on Saturdays amid the latest restrictions, with the bar also offering 50 per cent off deals until 8pm

Popworld bars in York and Liverpool will open from 4pm on Fridays and 3pm on Saturdays amid the latest restrictions, with the bar also offering 50 per cent off deals until 8pm

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, added: ‘ When making decisions about how and where to socialise, it is vital for each of us to remember that we are in the grip of a global pandemic and therefore our decisions should not be based on where to purchase the cheapest drink deals.

‘The World Health Organization recommends we limit or avoid alcohol altogether during the pandemic to ensure our immune systems remain uncompromised. 

‘We must all continue to play our part in reducing the spread of coronavirus by avoiding crowded areas and maintaining social distancing.’

As the rules came into force last night, revellers who headed out to enjoy a few drinks were turfed out of pubs and restaurants across England at 10pm.

Elsewhere, Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is offering a 'bottomless brunch' with unlimited cocktails from 10am, with an extended happy hour in place until 8pm

Elsewhere, Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is offering a ‘bottomless brunch’ with unlimited cocktails from 10am, with an extended happy hour in place until 8pm

Revellers in Newcastle didn't let the dreary weather and the new 10pm curfew stop them enjoying a night out on the town

Revellers in Newcastle didn’t let the dreary weather and the new 10pm curfew stop them enjoying a night out on the town

Revellers in Newcastle didn't let the dreary weather and the new 10pm curfew stop them enjoying a night out on the town

Revellers in Newcastle didn’t let the dreary weather and the new 10pm curfew stop them enjoying a night out on the town

Chairs and tables were left empty as customers enjoying drinks with friends on outside tables in Soho, central London, were told to ‘get out to help out’ by hospitality staff.

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 before 10pm.

Others enjoyed a drink at pub beer gardens in London Bridge while for others the restrictions caused a few cancellations as revellers feared their meals would be cut short.  

‘Six months’ of restrictions at a glance

  • All pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be subject to a 10pm curfew from Thursday, while premises must kick out all of their customers by the cut off point; 
  • The hospitality sector will also be restricted to table service only as the Government outlawed drinkers making a trip to the bar; 
  • All workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings will be required to wear masks except when they are seated to eat or drink;
  • All workers who can work from home are now being encouraged to do so from tomorrow; 
  • Fines for flouting the Rule of Six and not wearing a mask are increasing to £200 for first offences; 
  • The police will now have the option of asking the military for support with soldiers potentially being drafted in to guard protected sites in order to allow officers more time to crackdown on rule-breakers; 
  • The number of people allowed to attend weddings in England is being slashed to 15 from Monday but the number of people allowed to attend a funeral will stay at 30;  
  • Plans for the partial return of sports fans to stadiums have been paused;
  • Rule of Six exemptions are being tightened to ban indoor team sports like five-a-side-football matches 

In Preston, Leeds, Brighton and Newcastle, students celebrating their first term of university – pictured jumping into the air with glee as they enjoyed even a partial nightlife – carried boxes of drinks home with them.

The strict measures, which also ban customers from ordering from the bar, were imposed by the Government this week amid Tory backbench fears that Boris Johnson was gearing up for a second national lockdown.

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. We thank them for that.

‘Throughout the last few months we have continued to step in where necessary to protect the public, even as the rules relaxed, with officers working hard to tackle challenging incidents such as unlicensed music events throughout the summer – sometimes facing extreme hostility and even violence. In many cases we worked proactively and successfully ahead these events to prevent them from happening in the first place.

‘However, it is clear 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 – that means everyone following the rules. Our officers will help people do that and will explain to the public what those regulations are, however, they will also be firm and take appropriate action against those that simply refuse to follow the law and who are deliberately placing communities at risk.

‘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.

‘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.’

Just hours after the announcement was made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, food establishments slowly recovering from months of lockdown were faced with a wave of cancellations from concerned customers.

Metropolitan Police officers in face masks and yellow high-vis jackets enforced the new coronavirus restrictions while bar and restaurant staff cleared tables and chairs off the streets

Metropolitan Police officers enforced the new coronavirus restrictions in Soho, London while bars and restaurants closed 

George Madgwick, 30, who runs The Wicks Bistro, in Cosham, near Portsmouth, told MailOnline that he quickly had eight cancellations from worried diners who booked late-evening tables.

Mr Madgwick, who started up in February, said: ‘People don’t want to rush and are worried because it’s not last orders at 10pm, it’s everyone out the door at 10pm. It’s taken away our ability to do three sittings in a night.

‘Around 50 per cent of our business comes in at 7.30pm and we get around 20-25 per cent for 5pm tables, so the 8.45pm tables is about 20-25 per cent of our nightly business.

‘We’ve already had eight cancellations since the announcement and in the last 24 hours we have had zero bookings after 8.30pm, when we would normally have three or four.’  

Metropolitan Police officers in face masks and yellow high-vis jackets enforced the new coronavirus restrictions while bar and restaurant staff cleared tables and chairs off the streets

Huge crowds of revellers sheltered in the storm on the streets of Newcastle as pubs closed ahead of the 10pm curfew

People piled out of Cecconi's Pizza Bar in London as restaurants shut their doors ahead of the new 10pm curfew in England

People piled out of Cecconi’s Pizza Bar in London as restaurants shut their doors ahead of the new 10pm curfew in England 

Pubs booted out their drinkers so they could clear for the night ahead of the Government's new 10pm curfew in England

Pubs booted out their drinkers so they could clear for the night ahead of the Government’s new 10pm curfew in England 

Mr Madgwick said the cost to the business could be around £300-a-nigh, but added that the biggest impact of the curfew will be on his staff. He said: ‘Instead of working until 11.30pm everything has to close at 10pm so it will be more like 10.15pm, which is an hour and a quarter less hours every day.’  

Meanwhile Dean Mac, owner and founder of cocktail bar 186 in Manchester also said he has lost business following the curfew announcement: ‘The 10pm curfew essentially means our bookings have been cut in half. 

‘We’ve had to follow up with each and every guest booked in and make them aware of the changes, including changing our entire infrastructure so we can look to open earlier and keep ourselves in operation. Essentially we’ve had to cancel 50 per cent of our reservations as they are often made for around 9pm or 10pm.

Staff at  Cecconi's Pizza Bar in Soho, London tidy tables and stack chairs as they close ahead of England's new 10pm curfew

Staff at  Cecconi’s Pizza Bar in Soho, London tidy tables and stack chairs as they close ahead of England’s new 10pm curfew 

In Preston and Leeds, students celebrating their first term of university - pictured jumping into the air with glee as they enjoyed even a partial nightlife - carried boxes of drinks home with them

In Preston and Leeds, students celebrating their first term of university – pictured jumping into the air with glee as they enjoyed even a partial nightlife – carried boxes of drinks home with them

‘To us it felt like some form of normality was returning and we were finding our feet again, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us. It feels like the hospitality industry has been used as a scapegoat.’ 

Another, Jennifer Hughes, brand partner at Peru Perdu in Manchester, said: ‘We’ve had to cancel a lot of bookings and have changed our last seating time to 7.30pm – effectively cutting our capability in half. A few customers have cancelled and have concerns about going to restaurants all together from the scare of the latest announcement.’   

 On Tuesday the Prime Minister set out a raft of measures designed to clampdown on the virus, which has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives and infected more than 400,000 people in the UK.

As well as the curfew, which Mr Johnson is adamant that premises must follow and kick out all of their customers by the cut off point, the hospitality sector will also be restricted to table service only as the Government outlawed drinkers making a trip to the bar.

Police officers in face masks and yellow high-vis jackets enforced the coronavirus restrictions in Soho, London

Police officers in face masks and yellow high-vis jackets enforced the coronavirus restrictions in Soho, London

All retail workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings will be required to wear masks – except when they are seated to eat or drink – while all workers who can work from home are now being encouraged to do so from tomorrow.  

Fines for breaking the rule of six and for failing to wear a face covering are increasing to £200 for a first offence.

The police will now have the option of asking the military for support with soldiers potentially being drafted in to guard protected sites in order to allow officers more time to crackdown on rule-breakers.

Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the curfew would not be enough to slow the rate of infection.

But Mr Johnson insisted his approach was based on trying to ‘balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods’. 

Police enforced new coronavirus restrictions in Soho, London underneath a sign reading 'get out to help out'

Police enforced new coronavirus restrictions in Soho, London underneath a sign reading ‘get out to help out’ 

However, he said he reserved the right to ‘deploy greater fire power’ should it be necessary.

It comes as Dominic Raab said a second national lockdown could be needed to control the spread of coronavirus if the latest measures do not work.

He told Sky News on Wednesday: ‘We’ve always said we’ve got a sort of repository of measures in the arsenal to take. I don’t think we would speculate about what further could be done.

‘But the reality is they will be more intrusive or we could end up in a national lockdown. That is what we want to avoid.’

The Foreign Secretary added that if ‘everyone plays by the rules’ then a national lockdown may not be needed at Christmas.

He said: ‘Let’s hope that we can get through the winter months if we take these measures and if everyone plays by the rules, and we go into Christmas not needing to go into that national lockdown with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.’

Meanwhile, business chiefs and hospitality groups issued a string of dire warnings over the impact of the newest restrictions, saying millions of jobs were now on the line.

They insisted the Prime Minister’s U-turn on his ‘get back to work’ message could spell doom for struggling high streets, with footfall plummeting and shops boarded up.  

Who is going to pay for Rishi’s £5BILLION giveaway? Chancellor hints at tax rises down the track as he reveals workers will get 80 PER CENT of salaries for one third of their hours in new £300 MILLION a month scheme – but warns he ‘cannot save every job’ 

Rishi Sunak today hinted tax rises will be necessary to pay for the coronavirus crisis after he unveiled a new package of measures designed to keep the UK economy afloat over the winter as economists estimated the latest handouts could cost £5 billion. 

The Chancellor announced his Winter Economy Plan in the House of Commons at lunchtime as he pinned his hopes of avoiding massive job losses in the months ahead on a wage subsidy scheme which will replace furlough. 

Mr Sunak’s Jobs Support Scheme will see the Government top up the pay of people who can only work part-time in ‘viable jobs’. 

The multi-billion pound package of support also included further VAT cuts for the hospitality and retail sectors and the extension of emergency loan schemes for struggling businesses. 

Economic research company Capital Economics calculated Mr Sunak’s new business bailout could cost £5 billion, potentially taking the total cost of the Government’s Covid-19 support to approximately £200 billion. 

Mr Sunak was later grilled at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon over how the UK will pay for the crisis and he signalled tax rises could be coming down the track as he said he is likely to have to make ‘difficult decisions in the future as we get on a path back to sustainability’.   

Mr Sunak had earlier told MPs the UK ‘must endure and live with the uncertainty of the moment’ and that means ‘learning our new limits’ – but he insisted ‘our lives can no longer be put on hold’. 

The closure of the Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October has sparked dire warnings of waves of redundancies in the coming months but the Treasury has now decided to focus its fiscal firepower on trying to save jobs which have a future rather than ‘zombie’ ones which do not. 

Mr Sunak said the UK must ‘face up to the trade offs and hard choices coronavirus presents’ and that ‘as the economy reopens it is fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough’.   

 



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