The Government’s 10pm curfew for bars and pubs has spawned a rush for drink orders before closing time, data suggests.
On some nights, Britons have been spending a quarter more than usual in what is now the last hour of trade.
Last Friday, customers spent an average of £23.78 per transaction in the last hour before hospitality venues were forced to shut – up 27 per cent on the £18.70 typically spent on Fridays in September, according to data from banking app Revolut, which has 3million customers.
When the Government’s curfew was announced on 24 September, spend between 9-10pm rocketed, as people crammed in a last hour drinks splurge.
On the first Saturday after curfew, spend was £24.32 in the last hour of trade, compared to £18.52 the Saturday before.
The earlier closing time made 9-10pm last Friday and Saturday the hour in which consumers spent the most, with the amount spent per transaction jumping as much as £8 compared to earlier hours in the evening.
But despite this, overall spend has dropped significantly. The 10pm curfew has been blamed by hospitality bosses for harming the recovery in consumer spending seen in July, August and the rest of September.
The chief executive of a chain of bars and pubs across the North of England called for a ‘rethink’ on the curfew, telling This is Money it had had a ‘detrimental impact’ on trade.
And Jonathan Jones, from data provider CGA, said: ‘The recovery the trade had made during August has gone abruptly into reverse in September, as people shortened their evenings out or cancelled them altogether’.
|Thursday September average transaction (9-10pm) £19.20||Friday September average transaction £18.70||Saturday September average transaction £19.09|
|17 September £19.79||18 September £18.41||19 September £18.52|
|24 September (Day 10pm curfew introduced) £23.74||25 September £22.83||26 September £24.32|
|1 October £22.20||2 October £22.63||3 October £24|
|8 October £20.80||9 October £23.78||Saturday 10 October £23.86|
Data from 7,000 pubs and restaurants recorded by CGA found drinks sales were down 47 per cent on the first Friday of the 10pm curfew and 46 per cent on the Saturday on the same days in 2019, and down 35 per cent across the whole week.
They fell even further during the first full week the 10pm closing time was in effect according to figures published Friday, falling 37 per cent in the first week of October, with drinks sales down 47 per cent on Friday and Saturday.
|Time||Friday 9 October||Saturday 10 October|
The slump meant trading had fallen back to July levels, when pubs had only just reopened, CGA found, while figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest the curfew has hit high street footfall.
Prior to the new restrictions consumer spending and confidence had appeared to be returning to close to pre-pandemic levels.
Data released Tuesday by Barclaycard, which handles nearly half the UK’s debit and credit card transactions, found spending in bars and pubs was up 9 per cent year-on-year last month, with spending higher than the same month last year for the first time since February.
Restaurant spending was down 18.7 per cent, but this marked a recovery from the 39.1 per cent annual fall seen in August, while figures previously released by Britain’s biggest bank Lloyds found restaurant spending was up 5 per cent two months’ ago as the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme tempted diners out.
But the recovery in spending began to tail off after the Government announced a ban on gatherings of more than six people mixing on 14 September and the 10pm curfew 10 days later.
In the week leading up to the curfew being introduced on 24 September, card spending data from Lloyds showed spending in restaurants was up 12 per cent on the same week last year. Once the curfew was brought in, week on week spending fell 3 per cent.
Meanwhile spending figures from the consultancy Fable Data shared with the Financial Times found pub spending fell to its lowest level since the beginning of August at the start of this month.
Jones added: ‘After news of even tougher restrictions in Scotland, and more measures in areas of England, there is little sign of recovery.
‘The need for new and sustained government support for the on-trade is becoming more urgent by the day.’
The hospitality industry has reacted with fury to the curfew, due to be voted on by MPs today, accusing the Government of not providing any evidence that the industry is to blame for a rise in coronavirus cases, with some planning on taking legal action.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, last week said the curfew ‘has had a severe and devastating impact’, and that there was no evidence to ‘to support the case that infections are transmitted in hospitality’.
‘Businesses are feeling the cumulative impact of all the restrictions placed on them, but they have really suffered since the introduction of the curfew.
‘The curfew has wiped away revenue from businesses that were only just clinging on. For many, it has tipped them into financial unviability.’
She told MPs that initial estimates of more than half a million job losses would be ‘far higher now’ as a result of the curfew and other local restrictions, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to close bars pubs in areas which fall into the highest level of the Government’s new ‘three tier system’.
Martin Wolstencroft, the chief executive of ARC Inspirations, which runs bars in Manchester, Leeds and York, told This is Money: ‘The curfew and other restrictions are having a detrimental impact on our business and the hospitality industry as a whole.
‘The rule of six meant we saw 3,000 bookings being cancelled across last month.
‘Christmas is of course crucial for our sector businesses – and we are projecting our sales to be down 50 per cent.’
He adds: ‘The lack of government support provided to offset these severe financial losses in recent months continues to risk thousands of jobs in the sector; we have 900 team members that we must protect as far as possible.
‘It is time for an urgent Government rethink on the mandatory 10pm curfew in those areas where coronavirus rates are low.’
Government slides presented to MPs by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty based on 98 pubs and 67 cafes suggested 30 per cent of coronavirus infections were linked to hospitality.
Eating out was the second-most reported activity among the nearly 15,000 people referred to the NHS contact-tracing service in the days before they became ill and tested positive for coronavirus, according to the latest figures from Public Health England, after shopping.
However just 24 suspected coronavirus outbreaks, where two or more confirmed coronavirus cases are linked to one setting, out of 782 investigated by the body came from pubs and restaurants in the week the curfew was introduced.
And notes published Monday night from a meeting of the Government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on 21 September said curfews were ‘likely to have a marginal impact’ on the spread of the virus.