The government’s new 10pm curfew could cost the Northern Quarter some of its favourite venues – and dozens of jobs
• Late-night bars have seen operating hours drastically reduced and dozens of jobs are now on the line
• Not all venues may be able to adapt
• Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, has warned the curfew may be doing more harm than good
The government’s new 10pm curfew is putting dozens of jobs at risk in Manchester’s Northern Quarter as late-night venues are being disproportionately hit, say bar and restaurant owners.
The new measure meant to help curb the spread of coronavirus forces the city centre’s iconic bars to close before their main operating hours and directly threatens the livelihoods of their workers just as the end of furlough approaches.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new ‘job support scheme’, which was announced last week, only covers “viable” jobs: only employees working over a third of their contracted hours are eligible, with businesses expected to foot the bill for unworked hours, further damaging the late-night industry.
Behind Closed Doors, Oldham Street’s self-described “debauched cocktail bar”, is one of the Northern Quarter’s favourite late-night venues, where most of the trade happened after 10pm before the recent measures.
It has lost 30 hours’ worth of opening time per week.
Bar manager Leeroy Brown fears this may lead to a lot of the staff having to leave.
He said: “We’re not looking at making anybody redundant but the lack of hours available for the staff to work could mean they won’t be able to live on their wages anymore.”
Since the curfew came into effect on Thursday, Behind Closed Doors has started opening an hour earlier in a bid to adapt to the new situation, though Mr Brown said there was no way of knowing whether or not this will be viable in the long run.
“We’re trying to see how the landscape is going to change, but a lot of hospitality workers are worried for their livelihood.”
The feeling is shared by Nick Coupland, marketing manager for Crazy Pedro’s, which operates five venues in Manchester, four of which saw most of their trade happen between midnight and 4am before the curfew.
The company employs more than 120 people in Manchester.
He said: “Nobody has been made redundant and we’re working very hard to keep it that way.”
“But even the smallest reduction in their hours could have a huge impact on our employees’ lives.”
Most of their bars have also changed their opening times and are looking at different concepts to attract new customers.
However, Mr Coupland added: “It’s impossible to predict people’s behaviours and it may well not be enough.”
He is worried that bars and restaurants are being used as a scapegoat for the spread of Covid, but says closing them earlier could lead to a spike in Coronavirus cases.
“Bars are an easy target, but now people will just be having house parties instead,” he said.
On Monday, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham warned on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the curfew was “doing more harm than good”, after it was reported that people flocked to supermarkets to buy alcohol after being turned away from bars over the weekend.
He added that the measure is creating an incentive for people to gather in homes, while also damaging businesses.
The Night Time Industries Association has warned that, without further government support, 57% of late-night businesses in the UK are likely to close within the next couple of months.