A 10pm curfew came into force on Thursday, 24 September along with further measures of having only seated tabled services and face masks to be worn when not at a table.
This is the latest measures to come in as the Government say that infection rates are rising and steps need to be taken, although there hasn’t been any modelling on the benefits to reducing covid-19 infection spread or modelling around the financial loss to a business.
This change has created a significantly different night-out experience. Just a glance through any venue you window and you will see a sedatory looking experience, although talking to people on the street, people are clearly make the most of a situation.
One couple told us they had been in a bar and been invited to join another table, but the door staff had repeatedly stopped them, even though it created a table of less than 6. It does make you think how many people in the past have met future partners or just met other groups of friends on a night out – that can’t happen now.
Most venues have moved to pre-booking of tables. That has created issues in that it has taken away the spontaneity on a night out. Harrogate traditionally was known for the West Park run, starting from the West Park and finishing in Jimmy’s, but a night out is generally about going between a few different places and meeting people.
These changes mean that once you have got a table you (more or less) need to stay there or risk being left out on the street, unless you have managed to book another table. It also creates some problems for visitors to the town, visitors that may not know where they may want to go.
The pre-booking, like all booking systems, has led to a percentage of no-shows. We spoke to one venue, and they said that they had experienced one evening with a 60% no-show. Another venue told us that they estimated that they had turned away 150 people on Saturday evening (26 Sept)
Licence holders are under real pressure to abide by the rules, with many calling last orders at 9:30pm and most drifting out before 10pm – that has stopped a rush to leave at 10. Talking to door staff, many believe people head to get alcohol before heading home.
Restaurants that traditionally had two-sittings on an evening have had to move things forward, many asking a first sitting to be in at 6 to allow more time over the evening. Restaurants need people to be flexible on booking times and turn-up for their booking.
On a Saturday, many have reached capacity by lunchtime, albeit a capacity that is a fraction of what it would have been with some, socially-distanced standing. For many bars, especially on a Saturday, the standing room would account for well over half the people in the venue.
Talking to one venue, they told us that they had let 5 staff go in only the last week and that revenue was down by around 50%, albeit some of that was attributed to the weather on the day.
If there was greater clarity on the benefits of these measures and even an acknowledgment or support package, these measures would be easier to swallow.