This is what the new 10pm curfew means for Preston's hospitality industry
The Government has now confirmed that the majority of Lancashire is being placed under new local lockdown restrictions to halt the virus from spreading.
Lancashire has today been named an "area of intervention" and will see significant changes curtailing social contact.
The Department for Health made the announcement today, confirming restrictions over the boroughs of Preston, Lancaster, Wyre, Fylde, Chorley, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Ribble Valley, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn, and Rossendale.
Following the route of neighbouring Bolton, the first town in England to have a curfew imposed after cases surged, traders in Preston will now been forced to kick out their diners at 10pm.
Paul Butcher, manager of the Stanley Arms pub, Lancaster Road, said: "It will be disastrous to pubs in the city centre if our night time economy is taken away from us. That is how we trade. The whole guidance has been confusing because we were told by the council that we can only have tables of no more than six people from either the same household or a support bubble, but a sports team could play full contact football but not sit at a table together.
"Our industry is the only industry being demonised and scrutinised every day for our impact on this crisis and we are often being blamed for spreading it. Nobody is paying the same attention to monitoring gyms or supermarkets. It is just us licensed traders that the council and government are policing making it very difficult for us to trade.
"In every scenario, people can pick and choose what guidelines to follow except for in pubs and restaurants. This new curfew is just one of the number of things that do not make any sort of sense. Every time we prepare to adhere to the guidelines and get something in place, the goal posts change again. We are being prevented from trading at every turn."
The introduction of the curfew comes a week after the new ‘rule of six’ came into force, stopping people from socialising indoors and outdoors in groups larger than six people.
And Preston now sits at the fourth highest amount of coronavirus cases in the country.
"A 10pm curfew does seem a little strange. Our evening trade is already massively reduced compared before Covid-19, especially within the city centre," said Nick Elsby, general manager of the Plau restaurant and Bar, Friargate.
"We're very cautious, especially with customer numbers. Our booking system helps to stagger arrivals to minimise queues at the door and to reduce cross-interaction. Condensing operating hours down with a sharp cut-off in the evening could potentially cause large numbers of people to all exit the building at the same time. That would be quite counter-productive, especially city-wide.
"From what we've seen in Preston, there is a strong and responsible community of landlords and operators of bars and restaurants. The vast majority are following the restrictions and implementing additional recommended measures from Preston City Council to do as much as possible to reduce the spread of a virus.
"Every site is running at a reduced capacity, to further restrict operating hours could be devastating for those that rely on evening trade. We hope that the new measures actually prove to help to reduce infections because it could push many venues towards closure."
The new announcement also forbids residents from socialising with any members of other households in homes and private gardens.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton. Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.
“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission.
“I urge local people to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember ‘hands, face, space’. By sticking to these steps, we will get through this together.”
Nik Antona, the national chairman of CAMRA - the 'campaign for real ale' said: “These restrictions will be a big cause for concern for pubs in the region and their ability to stay open, turn a profit and pay their staff.
“The vast majority of pubs and pub-goers across the country are doing the right thing. They are acting responsibly and willing to do whatever is necessary to provide a safe, Covid-secure place for communities to meet and enjoy the wellbeing benefits of having a pint with friends and family.
“Ministers should now provide evidence that curfews and restrictions on who you can go to the pub with will be effective in reducing transmission of Covid-19, as well as emphasising that it’s still safe to go to the pub with your own household if you follow the rules. Otherwise, we could see a huge financial impact on viable pubs who are already operating under much tighter restrictions than other businesses, with no positive effect on controlling the virus.
“The Government should also introduce a new financial support package and extend the furlough scheme for affected pubs to help them cope with reduced trade that will come as a result of these restrictions. This is the only way to avoid permanent pub closures and further job losses.
However Preston city councillor Carol Henshaw said that the new measures are just a 'small price to pay' compared with those who have family dying from the virus.
She said: "I think the government's handling of this pandemic has been at best inept and at worst criminally negligent. Effective leadership should be evidence-based and provide clear and concise practical advice.
"They locked down too late, failed to provide PPE, were far too slow to protect our most vulnerable in care homes and can't provide an effective test and trace system. Therefore, local authorities have had to step up and make decisions to safeguard it's citizens.
"Our environmental health team have visited pubs and restaurants to monitor hygene standards and to ensure that social distancing measures are in place. Being a business owner myself, my heart goes out to those that will be affected by a curfew, but my heart reaches further to those unable to be with family members affected by this virus, whether that be because they are in hospital for other reasons and unable to have visitors, or worse and dying alone.
"I think therefore that any curfew measures are a small price to pay."