Could London be next to go into lockdown? Officers visit pubs to turf out drinkers before the curfew

Officers have been spotted visiting London pubs to turf out drinkers at 10pm after City of Westminster ‘fun police’ peered through letterboxes looking for lock-ins.

They were pictured at a bar on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, west London, booting people out as the curfew kicked in.

One man looked sad as he protested to a policewoman outside the upmarket establishment with friends.

Another image showed an officer enter a pub and speak to women – who were not wearing face coverings – as the new closing time passed.

It comes after the capital was put on the coronavirus ‘watch list’ on Friday morning following a rise in infections.

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

Officers have been spotted visiting London pubs to turf out drinkers at 10pm after City of Westminster 'fun police' peered through letterboxes looking for lock-ins

Officers have been spotted visiting London pubs to turf out drinkers at 10pm after City of Westminster ‘fun police’ peered through letterboxes looking for lock-ins

Police were pictured at a bar on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, west London, booting people out as the curfew kicked in

Police were pictured at a bar on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, west London, booting people out as the curfew kicked in

One man looked sad as he protested to a policewoman outside the upmarket establishment with friends

One man looked sad as he protested to a policewoman outside the upmarket establishment with friends

Meanwhile 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

Meanwhile 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.

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.’

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.’

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 in the evening were turfed out of pubs and restaurants as the country’s first 10pm pub and restaurant curfew kicked in.

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.

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. 

Who is going to pay for Rishi’s £5BILLION giveaway? Chancellor hints at tax rises

Rishi Sunak yesterday 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’. 

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.’ 

Health experts yesterday 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.’  

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.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk