In a ‘curfewed’ world Tom McCann has been out on the town finding out what really happens when it gets to chucking out time!
It’s two weeks since the government enacted the 10pm curfew, forcing the country’s pubs and restaurants into an early close.
Put in place in an apparent attempt to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the move has caused controversy among punters and workers alike, with some landlords even complaining it could force them to close –permanently.
It’s also causing headaches for some of those who work behind the bar. I spoke with someone who works in Hastings Old Town and she says things have changed “So much,” in the last few months.
“We have to take everyone’s details and we have to be strict with it. Surprisingly the majority of people are fine just to go along with it.”
She reckons many are just happy to be out and about: “Some people still act like nothing’s changed though and that’s difficult. We have so many different regulations now that you just get caught up in it all, and they demand a lot from you.
“It can be overwhelming. More than anything really, you just hope for everyone to be more kind.”
On a personal level the current situation is taking it toll on bar staff: “Since lockdown ended I’ve been working 45 hours a week every week – it’s just been nonstop. Before that I didn’t really have any money coming in. Obviously everything’s been so much harder for health workers, but I don’t think people realise how hard it’s been for us working in hospitality.
“There’s just so much uncertainty and we’re all trying so hard to make sure when customers come in they can have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure, especially when you consider the kind of relationships we have with them; always having to smile and chat and stay positive. I haven’t really been able to process anything yet because of that.”
“Everything was uncontrolled. Hundreds of drunk people all crowding into taxi ranks and kebab shops. It was bedlam.”
Well I thought I’d see for myself what the curfew is actually like, so I went down to witness it in person. And what’s changed? What does it do? Does it succeed?
Well you reach closing time and nobody feels like they’ve had enough to drink and yet last orders are being called, so everybody makes that last dash to the bar, downing all the booze they buy before they go.
As you leave everyone’s corralled out the door all at once and packed together like sardines and once you’re outside there’s nothing left to do. And, much in the way that drunks often are, everyone’s either overly friendly and mingling with strangers without wearing their masks, or they’re belligerent and actively defying rules and those two groups cover practically everyone, surely defeating the entire purpose of the curfew in the first place.
Did the curfew achieve its goal of keeping people at home?
As you leave you’re met with the sound of every group around you discussing what to do next. Suggestions for going to ‘his’ house, while there are other suggestions to go to ‘her’ house and then someone else pipes up saying: “I don’t care, come to mine.”
And then instead of being in pubs where their contacts have been taken so that contacts of those who become infected can be tracked, people head off in groups of more than that six who knows where?
All these measures, and for what? There’s always a way around something, and people will always find it.
I spoke to a police officer about it: “…reminds me of the times when pubs had to kick everyone out at the same time,” he said. “Everything was uncontrolled. Hundreds of drunk people all crowding into taxi ranks and kebab shops. It was bedlam.”
And you look around. And what do you see? Hundreds of people crowding into taxi ranks and kebab shops. And unless you walk, you’re right in there with them.
It’s clear that no one ever gave a thought to what the consequence of a universal 10pm shut down would have on our town centre.