Pubs and restaurants should be given a 'drinking up time' after the curfew, the hospitality board has said, after venues experienced a 'dangerous pinch point' at 10pm as they were forced to close.
Diners and pub-goers spilled on to city centre streets at the same time across the country, flooding public transport as they were all forced to go home at the same time.
As well as the heavy economic impact hospitality businesses expect the curfew to have on their businesses, they also worry that making everyone leave at once will cause the virus to spread more than before, when councils ensured licensed venues had staggered closing times.
Industry leaders pointed to Wales, which has a 20-minute 'drinking-up' time after 10pm, while in the rest of the UK everyone has to be off the premises as the curfew ends.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality told The Telegraph: “A staggered closing time would be beneficial in reducing transmissions. A hard 10pm curfew was always going to lead to pinch point of customers leaving pubs en masse. We made that point to the Government and called for a drinking up time to be included in the regulations. The first night under the curfew highlighted the problem with taking away staggered closing times and forcing everyone out onto the streets together. The Government should change the new rule to include a drinking up time. That way there would be some flexibility and reduce the risk of a log jam of customers leaving venues.”
Restaurants hit out at the heavy police presence, with officers entering the premises before the curfew to speak to diners, force them to pay and not let them finish their dinner.
Julian Bartlett, who runs Hakata Ramen and Bar on Bermondsey Street, London, said: "Our restaurant, on Bermondsey St, last night visited by police at 21:50 telling customers that they have pay now and leave the premises by 22:00. No reasonable period to finish their meal. This will destroy us. Hospitality venues are one of safest place to be outside of the home."
Neighbourhood restaurants said that the curfew was simply causing customers to order takeaway alcohol and drink it in each others' homes.
Brodie Meah, who runs Top Cuvée in Highbury, told The Telegraph: "A drinking up time would be a lot better.
"At 10 it was like old school kicking out the pub. Everyone was out the front at the same time! It really doesn't make sense to me. Putting people out onto the street en masse has been a problem in Britain in the past so whoever has made this decision has never been to a bar or restaurant that isn't a private member's club.
"We have a takeaway license, we are a neighbourhood restaurant and we noticed a lot of people were taking a bottle home to go to each others' houses" .
Restaurants said they took far less money than usual, as they had to cut a service to be able to close at 10.
Jackson Boxer, who runs Orasay in Notting Hill, said: "First night: guests were lovely and supportive as always," he said. "However the numbers are deeply alarming. Spend per head 30% down. Covers diminished by about the same."
"There has to be a reversal, or some really significant funding, way more effective than what's been announced," he added. "And I refuse to sacrifice a single member of my team for this."