I.In the nature of stories about the catering industry they come with a selection of ready-made metaphors. And so, the emerging regulations for catering levels can be variously described as broken souffle, split sauce or, perhaps most appropriately, a complete dog dinner.
Last weekend, in part to disparage its own rebellious lawmakers, the government released evidence used to justify these restrictions: the closure of all pubs and restaurants in three areas, and the rule that second-tier places could only serve alcohol along with a “substantial meal” “, Forcing all pubs without food supply to close. It was a thin document, citing the obvious fact that without social distance, pubs and restaurants are crowded places where the virus is likely to be transmitted. It pointed to super-spread events in South Korean and Japanese bars and clubs. However, it contained nothing about transmission rates in places where strict measures were used to control infections such as those introduced in the UK in July.
Certainly not a single study, conducted by an economist at Warwick University, suggested a link between rising infection rates and the government’s “eat out to help” scheme during August. Again, this is an unusual work. It claims only a correlation – not a causal link – between rainy days when fewer people were expected to eat outside and lower infection rates. It also contradicts a study by UKH Hospitality, the industry’s trade body, which reported a small number of infections among restaurant staff and customers.
The downside, while government evidence may have been, has given the industry something tangible to argue with. Social media flooded in with chefs and restaurants who insisted their businesses were not safe for Covid. But those forensic arguments were quickly pushed to the margins when, prompted by reporters seeking a little relief, the exchanges turned into a jolly story about what constituted a substantial meal. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove proposed an egg scotch. Undoubtedly, he considered it a brilliant choice, establishing credentials for his “man of the people”. Or maybe not. Scotch egg production is claimed by the Fortnum & Mason store as a Georgian food product for aristocrats traveling from London along the Great West Road to their headquarters. The perfect choice, then, for a government led by an old Etonite.
“It was disturbing,” said chef Tom Carridge, who owns a number of pubs and recently faced a BBC documentary on the challenges the sector faced during the pandemic. “You had Michael Gove laughing and joking about it, which showed a complete lack of respect for the industry, which employs three million people. “It’s not a matter of laughter.” Carridge described the government’s пону 1,000 offer for each of those pubs that could not be opened at all as “shameful and tempting”.
The new rules also shine through on how our approach to the out-of-home eating and drinking business continues to be marred. In fact, they said that if you were bourgeois enough to want to eat something, you could become as dazzling as you can imagine. But if you were an ik, who just wanted to go to a pub for a beer, you can forget about it. As Carridge puts it: “People who follow these rules live in beautiful houses with large gardens. Wet pubs [with no food offering] “are the only space where many people need to get out of cramped accommodation.”
Intriguingly, at the beginning of last week, the phrase “significant meal” was quietly dropped from the manual after it appeared, defined by a legal precedent. According to Journal of Law, the judges in the 1965 case found that the accompanying sandwiches were significant enough to allow two men to continue drinking in a hotel under “extended dinner time”. Thus, the phrase is replaced by “table meal”, which means “meal eaten by a man at the table”. But no, obviously if that table is in a pub and you only have a beer. But in a theater where beautiful people you can trust go, that’s absolutely good.
The hospitality industry welcomed the introduction of an extra hour in the curfew to eat after the last service at 10pm, but otherwise the mood was bitter. “The rules feel arbitrary and unfair,” one of the leading restaurants told me, “especially when so many businesses are struggling to survive.” Restrictions also require people to eat only with members of their household. “If you are fighting for survival and you think the rules are unfair, will you stick to them or stare at them and conclude that it is not your job to police him?”
That is a fair question. The police work on the regulations for Covid-19 should take place with consent. And yet these rules covering the hospitality sector are so poorly written that such compliance has been tested. We were drawn to the bizarre spectacle of cops wandering around pubs checking what was being served and deciding whether a slice of pizza, pasta or an egg scotch was considered dinner or not, as they’re mom again. It is confusing for lunches, it is a waste of police time and most of all it is rudely unfair to the catering sector that turns with every blow that this pandemic throws at it.