COUNCIL chiefs have called for the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants to be scrapped or extended to midnight - as the county was handed £4.5million to ease the impact of the “high alert’”restrictions.

Bosses at Essex County Council have written to Boris Johnson, claiming the curfew has been “counterproductive”, and say removing it will help traders and stop customers congregating in large groups after hours.

The calls come as Essex County Council has been handed £4.5million to mitigate the impact of moving into the high alert tier of Covid restrictions.

That figure was confirmed by the Government yesterday with the money specifically earmarked for supporting vulnerable groups and workplaces.

James Vessey-Miller, manager at The Railway Hotel in Southend, slammed the “ill-thought through” curfew, saying: “The 10pm curfew is a particular bugbear of mine. This decision, made by the government with no substantiating evidence and no clear rationale for the decision, stings.

“It stings not just because the government have removed the most profitable hours from every bar’s trade at a time where we really need every sale we can make, but also because how ill-thought-through it all is.”

Garry Lowen, owner of the Gleneagles Guesthouse, believes if the 10pm curfew is lifted it could encourage more people to stay at his business, in Clifftown Parade, Southend.

The 62-year-old said: “I’ve always found this such a strange rule which quite frankly I don’t understand.

“Although our tearooms close at 6pm, this could really help our guesthouse. It would mean more people can actually stay out later and are so are more likely to stay with us – why would you want to come to Southend for a night out if you have to be back in by 10pm?

“It also means everyone piles out at the same time and a lot of people just go to their friend’s houses.

“I’d be supportive of a scrap or extension on the curfew, I think it would drive business for us. They still haven’t even explained the science behind it.”

Ciovanna Corallini, manager at the Cricketers pub on London Road, Westcliff, said many pubs would welcome even the curfew extending to 11pm.

She said: “I’m sure having even an hour more would make things busier for us as well. Extra hours means extra money. It does have a knock on effect on other businesses too.”