Customers will be "spooked" by the the 10pm curfew and table service restrictions which come into force from midnight in the north-east of England, operators have warned.
Adrian Grieves, owner of the Garden House Inn in Durham, told The Caterer that the local restrictions, which were confirmed by health secretary Matt Hancock this morning, had "got everybody scared witless".
He explained: "For us as a bar and restaurant, it's the unpredictability of it. It's making everybody uncertain and people aren't coming out.
"People are spooked and feel uncomfortable. We're in the outskirts of Durham and the demographic of our clientele is 30 and over. People are worried, understandably, and are uncomfortable with the situation, with the lack of knowledge and confusing messages that are sent out. If in doubt, people will just stay at home.
"We're just going to have to say last orders are 8.30 and people will have to finish by 10."
Grieves said the way the localised measures were introduced was disappointing after the "feeding frenzy" success of the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
"The brains of Britain are supposed to be down there [in government]. They've scared everybody off – it's lockdown by another name with all the expenses of being open. My plea is for common sense to prevail. We've got to come to a reasonable way of going forward."
A spokesperson from the Cellar Door, a fine-dining restaurant in the centre of Durham, agreed that customers and operators were confused by the last-minute announcement. The Caterer was told: "Now we've got to close earlier we'll have to inform tables. Our latest bookings are at 9:30pm and obviously we'll have to push them forward. The last sitting would have to be at 8pm. I don't know what we're going to do at the moment – we're going to have a meeting about it later.
"It's disappointing for ourselves and for our customers. Yes, it's about keeping people safe but it's a shame and really confusing."
There are concerns that curfews could be implemented in other areas of the country, after being listed among prime minister Boris Johnson's tools to combat spikes in cases last week.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for newly formed Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has said a blanket curfew in Scotland would be "catastrophic".
He said: "Further restrictions will flick the switch for many businesses, that once closed will not be able to open their doors again. This will principally hit late night venue owners who have invested significantly to adapt their premises to bar service."
The group is asking the Scottish government not to take a similar blanket approach arguing it would "massively" increase the risk of mass gatherings where track and trace is "almost impossible".
He added: "The vast majority of bars and restaurants are operating safely. We have been adhering religiously to every regulation that has been introduced by the Scottish government and we will continue to do so."
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls posted on Twitter that she "fully" supported "increased targeted and intelligence led enforcement of Covid restrictions". She added: "The way we get out of this crisis and local lockdown measures quickly is through rigorous maintenance of standards and policing of requirements."
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