I.t in the nature of stories about the hospitality industry that they come with a selection of ready-made conversions. And so the newly introduced tier regulations for the hospitality sector can be described as a collapsed soufflé, a shared sauce or, perhaps more appropriate, a complete dog lunch.
Last weekend, partly to demonize its own rebellious MPs, the government released the evidence used to justify those restrictions: closing all pubs and restaurants in tier three areas, and the rule that tier two venues could serve alcohol alongside “substantial” only. meal ”, forcing all those pubs with no food offer to close. It was a thin document, pointing out the obvious fact that, without social distance, pubs and restaurants are crowded places where virus transmission is likely. He highlighted ultra-dispersal incidents at South Korean and Japanese bars and clubs. However, it did not include anything on transmission rates in settings using rigorous infection control measures of the type introduced in the UK since July.
Certainly, he did not mention the same study, by an economist at the University of Warwick, that suggested a link between rising infection rates and the government’s “eat out to help” scheme throughout August. Then again, it’s a weird piece of work. He claims that there is only a correlation – not a causal link – between rainy days when fewer people would be expected to eat out and lower infection rates. It is also contradicted by a survey by UKHospitality, the industry’s trade body, which identified small numbers of infections among restaurant staff and customers.
Faulty though the government’s evidence might be, it gave the industry something tangible to contend with. Social media was packed with chefs and restaurant owners demanding their businesses be Covid-safe. But those forensic arguments were quickly pushed to the edge when the exchanges turned into a joyful story about what was really a significant meal, encouraged by journalists looking for a bit of light relief. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove offered a scotch egg. Undoubtedly he thinks he is a great choice, establishing his “man of the people” qualifications. Or maybe not. The invention of the scotch egg is claimed by the supermarket Fortnum & Mason as a Georgian grab and go food item for dignitaries traveling from London along the Great West Road to their country seats. The perfect choice, then, for an old Etonian-led government.
“It was embarrassing,” said chef Tom Kerridge, who owns a number of pubs and has recently faced a BBC documentary about the challenges the sector is facing during the pandemic. “You got Michael Gove laughing and joking about it, which showed a complete disregard for an industry that employs three million people. It’s no laughing matter. “Kerridge describes the government’s late offer of £ 1,000 for all those pubs that can’t open at all as” embarrassing and embarrassing “.
The new rules have also shed light on how our class toward the business of eating and drinking outside the home continues to be. In effect, they said that if you were bourgeois enough to want to eat something, you could become as boring as you fancy. But if you were some guy who just wanted to go to the pub for a pint, you might forget about it. As Kerridge says: “The people who make these rules live in nice houses with big gardens. Wet pubs [with no food offering] is the only place that many people have to get out of cramped accommodation. ”
Interestingly, early last week, the phrase “substantial meal” was quietly dropped from the guidelines, after it emerged that it was defined by legal precedent. According to The Law Gazette, judges in a 1965 case found that associated sandwiches were substantial enough to allow two men to continue boiling in a hotel under an “extended dinner time”. Thus the phrase has been replaced by “table meal”, which means “meal eaten by a person at a table”. But no, I guess if that table is in a pub and you only have a pint. But in a theater, where the nice people you can trust go, it’s absolutely fine.
The hospitality industry welcomed the introduction of an extra hour for the curfew to eat up after the last service at 10pm, but otherwise the tone was one of bitterness. “The rules feel arbitrary and unfair,” one leading restaurant owner told me, “especially when so many businesses are struggling to survive.” The restrictions also require people to eat only with members of their own home. “If you’re fighting for survival and you think the rules are unfair, are you going to stick to them or are you going to stick to them and conclude that policing is not your job that? ”
It’s a fair question. Covid-19 regulations must be policed by consent. Yet these rules relating to the hospitality sector are so poorly written that such consent has been proven. We’ve been treated to the strange sight of police officers wandering around pubs examining what’s being served, and coming to a judgment as to whether a piece of pizza, pastie or, yes, scotch egg, counts like dinner or not, like them ‘regarding your mother. It’s confusing for people to eat, it’s a waste of police time and most of all, it’s terribly unfair to a hospitality sector that has been rolling with every fist this pandemic has thrown.