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Max Wilkinson Calls On Alex Chalk to Defend The Cheltenham Hospitality Industry

Ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons next week, the Liberal Democrats have teamed up with pubs, restaurants and community clubs across the country to launch a “Keep the lights on” campaign in protest at the 10 pm curfew.

Local Lib Dem spokesperson Max Wilkinson recently joined Lib Dem leader Ed Davey at local independent restaurant Bar and Wok for a meeting with TURF, a local independent hospitality business collective, to discuss the impact that new COVID restrictions are having on businesses in Cheltenham.

Venues across the country are being urged to flash their lights in an 'SOS' Morse Code pattern in the minutes after the enforced shutdown on Friday and Saturday. The campaign is supported by both the Campaign for Real Ale and the Night Time Industry Association.

While Labour Leader Keir Starmer has also ruled out opposing Boris Johnson’s curfew next week, the Liberal Democrats want to see a return to staggered leaving times instead of a 10 pm closure that has seen mass crowds on the streets and public transport.

With rates on the rise in some parts of the country, Liberal Democrats are also calling on the Government to guarantee that furlough remains available to businesses that are put into lockdown while not penalising those that can open with the arbitrary 10 pm curfew. 

You can read the full text of Max's letter to local Conservative MP Alex Chalk below.

Dear Alex

Scenes of pub-goers getting kicked out onto the streets and onto public transport in large groups at 10 pm have shown that the curfew is bad for public health and bad for business. 

Of course, we need to do everything we can to keep people safe, and hospitality venues have gone the extra mile in making their venues COVID-secure. However, the 10 pm curfew sticks out like a sore-thumb.

With Ministers failing to publish any evidence that the 10 pm curfew works, people are right to raise questions when it appears to be undermining other public health measures and is putting their jobs on the line.

It is time for Ministers to either come forward with the evidence behind it or rethink the curfew. I am therefore urging you to stand up for local pubs and refuse to back Boris Johnson’s curfew in Parliament.

Meantime, with hospitality so badly hit by coronavirus, a package of support is needed to protect the near three million jobs across the sector. The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to:

  • Publish the medical, scientific and behavioural evidence behind the decision to impose a 10 pm closure time or otherwise reverse that decision.
  • Retain the furlough scheme for all sectors and parts of the UK until June 2021, starting with an extension for those businesses that must close temporarily as a result of the curfew and new lockdown measures. 
  • Widen the 5% VAT rate, now extended until March 2021, to include all hospitality sales, to benefit those wet-led pubs whose business model has already been disproportionately harmed by the restrictions on traditional “vertical” drinking. 
  • Act now to extend the business rates exemption for these businesses beyond April 2021 to allow them to plan for their future recovery.

Today, Sir Ed Davey and I visited members of TURF at Bar and Wok. Their views on the government’s response were clear. Much more must be done to support our local hospitality industry and the 10 pm curfew needs to go now.

I look forward to your response. 

Best wishes



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