Inspectors employed to prosecute restaurants and bars breaching new coronavirus lockdown rules were spotted peeping through pub windows in London on Thursday night.
The ‘City Inspectors’ were seen touring Soho, ensuring venues had abided by Boris Johnson’s new nationwide 10pm curfew.
Watch: Crowds spill onto London streets as pubs close early due to Covid restrictions
Dan Barker, a consultant from London who spotted the inspectors in Soho, wrote on Twitter: “Strange sight - City Inspectors, working through Soho, looking for illegal speakeasies open after the 10pm cutoff.”
Barker 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.”
Venues and business owners could face fines of up to £10,000 if they do not abide by the curfew, which could be in place for up to six months.
“In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations,” Boris Johnson told the Commons on Tuesday as he set out the new rules.
Central London was reported to be even quieter on Thursday evening than in recent weeks, a result of coronavirus restrictions and concern over the growing number of daily infections.
But revellers still took to the streets as they left venues at 10pm, and footage of crowds gathering prompted criticism that the curfew was encouraging people to mix and defy social distancing measures.
CLICK/TAP THE PICTURES BELOW TO SEE 10PM ON TUESDAY COMPARED TO 10PM ONCE THE CURFEW KICKED IN:
“The 10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months,” said Kirsty Lewis on Twitter.
“Yep! Definitely turned 10pm into a rush hour rather than the usual evening trickle,” replied Josh Mellor.
Barker said that Soho was “surprisingly subdued” for most of the evening, but for half a dozen film crews and press photographers “that people congregated around at 10pm, as places closed their doors”.
He added: “Some people seemed confused that literally everything was closed, but the streets became almost silent shortly after ten.”
The 10pm curfew for all hospitality venues is part of a new wave of restrictions aimed to prevent a second spike in cases of COVID-19 in the UK.
Venues are also obliged to only offer table service, and all team members must wear face coverings.
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