Furious pub and restaurant chiefs have hit out at a crippling 10pm curfew after it emerged the rule was imposed without Government scientists modelling its effect on Covid infections.
Bosses claimed their industry is being treated as a scapegoat, following reports that experts on the Sage committee had not carried out a thorough evaluation of the mandatory closing time before it was introduced last week.
The curfew - which is doing enormous financial damage to hospitality firms and could spark a massive wave of closures and lay-offs - was approved by the Government as a compromise option between scientists arguing for a much tougher lockdown and those against any immediate action, according to the Sunday Times.
James Calder, the chief executive of independent brewers' group Siba, said ministers feel the need to be seen to be doing something “however nonsensical that something is”.
He said: “Monday should be a busy day for brewery orders, but publicans are now in a state of despair. They are not ordering beer because they anticipate [other] lockdowns that will close their pubs not just for another fortnight, but for good.”
The latest figures from Public Health England show that fewer traceable coronavirus transmissions happened at hospitality firms than on household visits.
However, eating out was the most common activity reported by people before they were diagnosed with Covid.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the 10pm curfew still seemed hard to justify.
She said: “Venues have worked very hard, investing a lot of time and money to make premises safe and have overwhelmingly been complying with test and trace protocols.
“It seems as though we are being unjustifiably targeted."
Robert Wicks, the founder and managing director of Westerham Brewery in Kent, called for the Government to reconsider the policy or risk losing the support of businesses affected by it.
He said: “The Government to date has made much of being guided by science and then it implements a policy that is without scientific backing and clearly has unforeseen consequences."
David McDowall, chief operating officer at beermaker Brewdog, wrote on Twitter: “There was no rationale for the curfew being implemented, with zero scrutiny. Full closure will be catastrophic for hospitality. Sector specific support is urgently required.”
Separately, bars in parliament will not be permitted to sell alcohol after 10pm in a swift change of policy this week after The Times revealed they were exempt from the pub curfew.