UK Bars Were Told To Comply With a 10 P.M. Curfew While Parliament's Pubs Remained Open
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that bars, cafes, pubs, and restaurants will have to close at 10 p.m., and they will be limited to table service or takeout only. Those new restrictions went into effect on Thursday, and are the government's latest attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus throughout the United Kingdom.
"No one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses," a spokesperson for Johnson said. "We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the [National Health Service]."
Although Johnson acknowledged that the mandatory curfews might be tough for businesses "just getting back on their feet," at least a half-dozen bars and restaurants were initially exempt from those restrictions—the ones that serve the members of Parliament.
According to The Times, Parliament's bars were originally allowed to ignore the new guidelines because they were considered a "workplace canteen," and would be allowed to remain open "where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace" to score food and drinks. The Member's Dining Room, Adjournment, Smoking Room, Terrace Pavilion, Pugin Room, and Members' Tea Room were all allowed to remain open under that Boris-sized "canteen" loophole.
“As catering outlets providing a workplace service for over 3,100 people working on the Estate, the current regulations on hospitality venues do not apply to Commons facilities," a spokesperson for the House of Commons said. “We continue to follow social distancing and cleaning measures as a Covid-secure workplace in order to reduce the transmission of the disease through social distancing signage, one-way systems, socially distanced seating arrangements, contactless payments, marshalling and additional cleaning.
Regardless of the justification, that didn't sit well with a lot of people—including some current Members of Parliament (MPs). "Parliament’s bars exempt from 10pm curfew? Appalling decision," George Freeman, an MP for Mid Norfolk tweeted. "This sort of thing is what brings Parliament into disrepute."
"I know the government have got used to setting one rule for some and another for everyone else but this is another level. Absolutely ridiculous," Sarah Owen, the MP for Luton North, said. And Anne McLaughlin, a Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow North East said that she was able to "do [her] job" last week without having to stop for a late night drink. " I just assumed the bars were shut," she tweeted. "This is ridiculous.”
After listening several days' worth of backlash, Parliamentary authorities changed their minds and ruled that alcohol could not be sold—not even to MPs—after the 10 p.m. curfew. According to Sky News, they did give the OK for catering facilities to remain open late to "serve food for those still working" in the Palace of Westminster.
"Good," Angela Raynor, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Shadow First Secretary of State, wrote. "If we ask others to follow the regulations, then we must also follow them. It's basic stuff, really."