The Mayor of London has called for the 10pm curfew in the city to be scrapped to help restaurants deal with Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.
Sadiq Khan said allowing businesses to stay open past 10pm will boost cashflow by allowing restaurants to increase their bookings throughout the evening.
Under the Tier 2 restrictions, introduced in London on Saturday, household mixing is banned indoors, meaning pubs and restaurants can only serve single-household customers, providing they abide by the rule of six.
The 10pm curfew has previously been criticised across party lines for its financial impact on businesses as well as causing crowds to build in streets and on public transport when customers leave premises.
In a statement, Mr Khan said: “I have said for a while that the current curfew rule needs to be rapidly reviewed.
“We saw the worrying consequences of increased social mixing on the streets and on public transport in the capital around 10pm immediately after its introduction.
“Now London and other parts of the country have moved into Tier 2 and higher restrictions, which prohibit household mixing, the current 10pm curfew policy makes even less sense and should be scrapped.
“Immediately scrapping the 10pm curfew would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening, helping with cashflow at a time when venues need all the support they can get.”
He added: “The Government still haven’t got a grip on this virus and provided a functioning test and trace system.
“Ministers must give businesses the support they need to survive while restrictions remain in place.
“This includes access to a proper job retention scheme in line with the 80% furlough scheme in place at the start of the pandemic.”
It comes despite Mr Khan appearing to suggest the need for a curfew in London last month before it was introduced, when discussing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Asked about the curfew by Sky News on September 22, he said: “The time does not matter. There is nothing magic about 10pm or 11pm.
“The issue is the amount of hours people are spending together where they could be asymptomatic and the virus passes on.”
Under the Tier 2 restrictions, household mixing is still permitted outside, including at pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating, although the rule of six applies.
Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded in the Commons the curfew was a “matter of policy choice” in order to keep schools and workplaces open, rather than something driven by scientific advice.
He claimed there is “direct and approximate evidence” for the positive impact of the limits on pubs and restaurants, citing a fall in alcohol-related A&E admissions late at night.
But Mr Hancock insisted the Government’s desire to protect education and work “as much as is possible” meant they had to take measures against socialising to try to slow the spread of Covid-19 transmission.