Lockdown inspectors have been sent out onto the streets of London to check whether pubs and bars are obeying the 10pm curfew.
A team of marshals in blue jackets from Westminister Council were spotted peering into letterboxes and pub windows late at night, to make sure all venues were fully closed.
The council area covers many famous nightspots in London, including Soho, and venues like jazz club Ronnie Scotts and the Hippodrome Casino were among those inspected.
Amid fears the curfew may spark a wave of illegal lock-ins and speakeasies, the council told the Telegraph that the marshals are ‘working around the clock’ to ensure the early closure times are followed.
They will ‘engage proactively’ with businesses and provide a ‘reassuring and visible’ presence on the capital’s streets, according to the council.
Dan Barker was among those who saw the inspectors out and about and uploaded photos of them to Twitter.
He wrote: ‘Strange sight – City Inspectors, working through Soho, looking for illegal speakeasies open after the 10pm cutoff.’
He later told Yahoo UK: ‘I’d guess I saw them looking into a dozen or so places – the area has quite a lot of pubs and bars.
‘It took me a moment to process what they were doing at first. I saw them again 15 minutes or so later outside the Hippodrome, which is usually open 24/7.’
It’s not known if the inspectors are being paid or have volunteered for the role. They are patrolling alongside police forces, many of whom are stretched by the extra demands of enforcing the curfew and other coronavirus measures.
A few weeks ago Boris Johnson called for councils to recruit ‘covid marshals’ to makes sure everyone is following the restrictions, although take-up appears to have been patchy.
At the time the Government said the marshals would have no powers to issue fines and police officials questioned how useful they would be. The Government asked councils to recruit volunteers or use existing staff, and bear the cost.
Westminister’s inspectors were out in the run-up to the first weekend of the new restrictions.
Pubs were still busy last night, despite the early closure time, and queues built up at off-licences after last orders.
As well as the curfew, all venues serving alcohol have to operate with table-service only, to stop people congregating at the bar.
Some venues have started offering deals to tempt people to begin their nights-out early. The Turtle Bay chain has been pushing it’s 10am ‘bottomless brunch’ and two-for-one cocktail deal before 8pm with the caption ‘guess we’ll have to start a little bit earlier then Boris’.
The new rule has led to fears of over-crowding as it means all bars will let out at the same time. On the first night of curfew on Thursday, the tube was packed as revellers made their way home.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of trade body UK hospitality, told the Telegraph: ‘A staggered closing time would be beneficial in reducing transmissions. A hard 10pm curfew was always going to lead to a pinch point of customers leaving pubs en masse. We made that point to the Government and called for a drinking up time to be included in the regulations.’
It comes as all London boroughs were added to the Government watchlist due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases. Residents of the capital have been warned further restrictions could be on the way unless the situation improves.
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