Just two weeks after being allowed to reopen following the month-long national lockdown in England, operators across the capital will now have to close their doors once more and be forced to remain shut on what would usually have been the sector's busiest week of the year.
South and west Essex and south Hertfordshire will also enter the toughest tier restrictions when the changes come into effect at one minute past midnight on Wednesday.
Under Tier 3 all hospitality venues must close, although takeaway and delivery are still allowed.
London currently sits in Tier 2, where restrictions ban household mixing in indoor settings and require pubs and bars to close unless they are able to serve a 'substantial meal'.
Announcing the move to the House of Commons this afternoon (14 December), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government had been forced to take 'swift and decisive action' following a sharp rise in Coronavirus cases across the capital and south east.
He said: “When the virus is growing exponentially, there is not a moment to spare.
“I know this is difficult news, I know that it will mean plans disrupted, and for businesses affected it will be a significant blow. But this action is absolutely essential, not just to keep people safe, but because we’ve seen that early action can help prevent more damaging and longer lasting problems later."
The decision to shut London's hospitality sector will bring greater calls for the Government to do more to compensate businesses for earnings lost as a result of the enforced closure.
At present, businesses forced to close are only entitled to meagre grant sums of up to £3,000 per month.
Reacting to the announcement, UKHospitality says the decision to move London and areas of the south east into Tier 3 as will push more businesses towards failure and put more jobs put at risk.
The trade body has warned that the Government’s tier system places an unfair, illogical and disproportionate burden on hospitality businesses without effectively tackling Covid-19.
“Putting hospitality businesses back into lockdown, which is effectively what tier 3 amounts to, is not going to tackle increasing infection rates," says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.
“There’s still no hard evidence that hospitality venues are a significant contributor for the spike in infections. Cases were higher at the end of the last lockdown – during which hospitality was shut down – than at the start.
"The spread is being predominantly driven through schools – even the Mayor of London has pointed this out and called for schools to stay shut until January. Yet, once again, it is hospitality that will take the hit. The Government is cracking down on hospitality for an increase in the infection rates that occurred during a period when hospitality was forcibly closed. It makes no sense.
“So many pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are only just clinging on by the skin of their teeth, but will be forced to take another huge hit. The burden of a region being moved into tier 3 falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses. It is an illogical tactic that fails to tackle COVID effectively but does push businesses closer towards failure.
“The Government must rethink its strategy to combating the spread of Covid, including moving areas like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham into Tier 2. Just continuing to batter hospitality is not the answer.”