Marston's chief criticises government 'panic' over 10pm coronavirus pub curfew

The chief executive of Marston's has criticised the Government's lack of consistency after it banned pubs from operating after 10pm.

Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay
Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay

Ralph Findlay, boss of the Wolverhampton-based brewing giant, said the decision to impose further restrictions was particularly frustrating given the majority of infections appeared to be happening in home settings.

"I am very disappointed that the improving confidence we were seeing among customers, helped by the Eat out to Help Out campaign, has been thrown in to reverse," Mr Findlay said.

"That is a bigger issue than the 10pm curfew.

"If you look at the amount of business we do after 10pm across our 1,400 pubs that is about five per cent of turnover.

"It is significant but not huge and, of course, it is different for different operators. For town centre or city centre bars it is a much bigger issue," he said.

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Boris Johnson warned the UK was at a “perilous turning point” in the battle with coronavirus as he imposed the 10pm curfew, ordered wider use of face masks and abandoned efforts to get more workers back into offices.

And the Prime Minister said that the new curbs could last for six months – taking them well beyond Christmas – “unless we palpably make progress”.

"For us the main issue is a change in sentiment," Mr Findlay added.

"I am concerned it is getting to look like panic in Government which does not have a consistent approach to what it is trying to do.

"It is particularly frustrating to look at the Public Health England data which tracks where rises in infections are coming from. The wider hospitality sector, including coffee shops and restaurants, is five per cent of the outside of home infection numbers.

"The vast majority are in care home and educational settings."

Mr Findlay said Marston's, which has 14,000 employees, was seeing very low infection rates.

"A tiny number of employees in our pubs and restaurants have been diagnosed with having the virus. Since July out of our 1,400 pubs only four have been contacted through Test and Trace to say someone who has had issues has been at one.

"We have not had any centre of infection," explained Mr Findlay

He said that having to provide table service would not make a great deal of difference to Marston's.

"It is pretty much what we are doing already," he added.

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