Bars in Parliament will not serve alcohol after 10pm following a backlash over reported plans to exempt them from early closing times.
Under Boris Johnson‘s new rules, pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service only, and hospitality, leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses all have to close between 10pm and 5am.
New laws mean people must wear face coverings unless they need to remove them to eat or drink. Staff in shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs must also wear face coverings.
But according to The Times, bars on the Parliamentary estate are not subject to the earlier closing time as they fall under the description of a “workplace canteen”. Staff and customers will not be required to follow the new rules on face coverings.
Visitors will also not be asked to provide a name and number on entry to the bars. Instead, responsibility will fall to a team which acts as a point of contact for any coronavirus cases among MPs and staff.
Following criticism from industry bodies on Monday, a UK Parliament spokesman said alcohol will no longer be sold after 10pm on the Parliamentary estate.
He said catering facilities will remain open later to serve food for those still working and to support social distancing.
After the decision to stop alcohol being sold in Parliament after 10pm, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Good, if we ask others to follow the regulations then we must also follow them, it’s basic stuff really.”
It comes after health minister Helen Whately defended the Government’s 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.
“As people drink more they tend to socially distance less. So one approach to keeping people socially distancing is to limit the amount of time that people are in places where they are drinking and then this breaking down of compliance with the rules,” she told BBC Breakfast on Monday.
“We have also seen in some of the places where there have been higher rates over the summer that sometimes bars have been the places where there has been an outbreak, so this is a reason why one of the actions we have taken is to have people stopping being out drinking at an earlier time.”
A spokeswoman for the House of Commons told the Times: “We continue to follow social distancing and cleaning measures as a Covid-secure workplace in order to reduce the transmission of the disease through social distancing signage, one way systems, socially distanced seating arrangements, contactless payments, marshalling and additional cleaning.”
Adrian Gaines, from Rosie’s Pub in Hartlepool, said the revelations could lead to protests as thousands of hospitality businesses struggle under the new restrictions.
“We are about 80 per cent down on last year,” he told the Standard. “We were trading at 50 per cent down, up until last week with the further restrictions.
“The problem is that those levels are not sustainable — many will close.”
Mr Gaines said the bars on the Parliamentary estate should be closed and given a £10,000 fine “as it’s licensed”.
Tom Stainer, Camra’s chief executive, said the Government should “lead by example”.
“Publicans across Great Britain are quite rightly going to be angry at this morning’s news,” he said.
“They are making huge efforts to keep staff and customers safe while facing increasing financial pressure due to the latest restrictions.
“If the Government is convinced the 10pm curfew is an effective measure, we would expect them to lead by example and apply it – alongside mandatory masks and contact tracing – to the bars which operate in the Houses of Parliament.
“As things stand, we have no evidence that the curfew will be effective, and no financial support package to support the pubs that are on the brink of closure because of it.”
UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, hopes MPs will recognise the “value” of the hospitality services in Parliament and provide much-needed support to the sector.
“The pressure on business – the need for a thorough cleaning and rigorous social distancing measures to be in place – is the same for any business in the sector,” she said.
“Our understanding is that some operations in Parliament fall under the category of workplace canteens, and so are being treated as such. We look forward to the value of these services being recognised by MPs and hope they will provide the support that the wider sector needs.”
A new report published last week revealed the hospitality industry is “teetering on the edge” following the introduction of the new virus-related restrictions, with one in four businesses believing they could fail by the end of the year without further Government support.
Trade bodies warned there could be 540,000 further job losses because of new rules such as closing early and table service only.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called for an urgent review of the curfew for pubs and restaurants.
Mr Burnham said it had resulted in people gathering in shops and homes once the bars closed.
“I received reports that the supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters with people gathering,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I think there needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces across the country.
“My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good. It creates an incentive for people to gather in the street or more probably to gather in the home.
“That is the opposite of what local restrictions here are trying to do.”