IBy the nature of stories about the hospitality industry, there is a choice of ready-made metaphors. Thus, the newly introduced level regulations for the hospitality sector can be variously described as a sunken soufflé, a split sauce or perhaps the most appropriate complete dog dinner.
Last weekend, in part to appease its rebellious MPs, the government released the evidence used to justify these restrictions: the closure of all third-level pubs and restaurants, and the rule that second-tier venues may only serve alcohol alongside a “substantial meal” all these pubs closed. It was a thin document, referring to the obvious fact that without social distancing, pubs and restaurants are crowded places where virus transmission is likely. It pointed to very widespread events in bars and clubs in South Korea and Japan. However, it said nothing about bitrate in places where stringent infection control measures were in place, such as those introduced in the UK since July.
He certainly didn’t mention one study by an economist at Warwick University that suggested a link between rising infection rates and the government’s “eat out” program in August. On the other hand, it is a peculiar job. It only claims a correlation – not a causal relationship – between rainy days when fewer people could be expected to eat outside, and lower infection rates. This is also contradicted by a study by UKHospitality, an industry industry organization that reported a low number of infections among restaurant staff and customers.
While the government evidence was flawed, it gave the industry something tangible to argue with. Social media was teeming with chefs and restaurateurs who said their businesses were safe for Covid. But these forensic arguments were quickly relegated to the sidelines when, urged by journalists seeking a little relief, the exchange turned into a cheerful tale of what was in fact a large meal. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove offered a Scottish egg. He no doubt saw it as a brilliant choice, establishing his credentials as “man of the people”. Maybe not. The invention of the Scottish egg is recognized by the upscale Fortnum & Mason store as a Georgian take-away food product for aristocrats traveling from London along the Great West Road to their rural destinations. The perfect choice for a government headed by old Eton.
“It was annoying,” says chef Tom Kerridge, who owns many pubs and recently ran a BBC documentary about the challenges facing the sector during the pandemic. “Michael Gove laughed and joked about what showed a complete disrespect for an industry with three million people. It is not a joke “. Kerridge describes the government’s late £ 1,000 deal for each of these pubs they can’t open at all as “embarrassing and condescending.”
The new rules also shed light on just how much the classy approach to eating and drinking outside the home is. In effect, they said that if you are bourgeois enough to want to eat, you can get a bladder any way you want. But if you were some oik who just wanted to go to the pub for a beer, you might forget it. As Kerridge puts it: “People who make these rules live in nice houses with large gardens. Wet pubs [with no food offering] it’s the only space that many people can get out of a cramped apartment.
Interestingly, early last week, the phrase ‘hearty meal’ was quietly removed from the guidelines after it turned out to be defined by legal precedent. According to Journal of Laws, the judges in a 1965 case found that the accompanying sandwiches were large enough to allow the two men to continue drinking in the hotel as an “extension of dinner time”. Thus, the phrase was replaced with “meal at the table”, meaning “meal eaten by a person at the table”. But no, apparently if this table is in a pub and you only have a pint. But in a theater where nice people you can trust go, it’s absolutely fine.
The hospitality industry welcomed the introduction of an extra curfew to eat after the last service at 10:00 PM, but otherwise there was bitterness. “The rules seem arbitrary and unfair,” one top restaurateur told me, “especially when so many companies are struggling to survive.” Restrictions also require that people only eat with members of their own household. “If you are struggling to survive and think the rules are unfair, will you follow them, or are you going to quiet them down and conclude that it is not your job to keep them?
It’s a fair question. Covid-19 regulatory control must be done with consent. Yet these hospitality laws have been so badly written that such approval has been tested. We were treated to the strange spectacle of policemen wandering around pubs checking what is served and judging whether a slice of pizza, cake or, yes, a Scotch egg counts as dinner or not, as they do. or your mom. It is confusing to visitors, it is a waste of police time, and most of all it is grossly unfair to the hospitality sector, which has faced every blow that this pandemic has struck it.