London’s West End restaurants and bars issue dire warning after ‘horrendous’ first weekend of Tier 2 restrictions

Published: 19 October 2020

Post Desk : Leading West End bar and restaurant operators today warned that they will not survive the winter after the “horrendous” first weekend of the capital’s Tier 2 Covid-19 clampdown triggered tens of thousands of cancellations.

The normally heaving streets of central London were left desolate on Saturday and Sunday following the imposition of tough new “no mixing” laws that resulted in up to 75 per cent of bookings being scrapped.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock ruled last week that London would be designated a “high risk” region from midnight on Friday, banning people from different households meeting indoors to combat the spread of the virus.

It was the latest hammer blow to hit London’s huge hospitality industry after a series of law changes, including the “Rule of Six” and the 10pm curfew, which operators say have made it impossible for them to make money .

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “It’s been horrendous, it has decimated the sector. We are going to see some catastrophic results in terms of businesses deciding to close. It’s so shortsighted, people are trying to stay open and survive but the Tier 2 mechanism means a pretty much a systematic closure of the sector. But insurance isn’t triggered because businesses are not being told by the Government to close.”

Central London appeared to have been hit far harder than suburban neighbourhoods where family and household groups are more likely to make up the majority of diners.

Des Gunewardena, chief executive of D&D London, which includes venues such as Le Pont de la Tour and Quaglino’s, said: “Friday was a strong day with everybody out for dinner before Tier 2 kicked in. But Saturday was a disaster for our big West End restaurants: Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street both dropped 50 per cent compared with last Saturday.

“These restaurants are massively reliant on their weekend business with weekdays being quiet without office workers and tourists, and theatres closed. It is a real kick in the teeth for the West End. And very upsetting given that the Government through PHE keeps putting out its statistics every day saying Covid is mainly in schools ,universities and care homes, not in restaurants.

“Absolutely zero evidence has been put forward to justify the 10pm curfew and zero evidence put forward for Tier 2 restrictions… Restaurants with outside terraces thankfully did a bit better, down only 10 to 15 per cent.”

Greg Marchand, chef-patron of Frenchie Covent Garden, said: “Last week we did about 430 covers, and the forecast for this week is 215, and the week after only 71. It’s a scary time indeed.”

Richard Corrigan, chef/patron of Corrigan’s Mayfair, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill and Bentley’s Sea Grill in Harrods, said: “We had 35 all day Saturday and 15 no-shows. I feel I am pulling a crate uphill with no brakes.”

Rob Pitcher, the boss of Revolution Bars, which has five London sites, said: “On Saturday the sales in our London bars dropped 60 per cent compared to the previous week, meaning that they were down 80 per cent compared to the same Saturday last year. London is now our worst affected area in England, outside of Liverpool.”

Patrick Frawley, founder of the East London Pub Company, said: “There was a big impact this weekend. We saw 40 to 50 per cent cancellations across the businesses. Business support including reduced VAT, cash grants to businesses, wage assistance to keep staff in employment are critical for bar and restaurant survival.”

Thomas Kidd, managing director of Adventure Bars, which includes Covent Garden’s The Escapologist, said: “It’s extremely challenging, there’s no way any bar or restaurant in Tier 2 can possibly be making money now, it’s completely f**ked.”

He added: “Every time there’s another level of complexity added with a new ruling we then have to enforce them and we have a spike in conflict situations that we are having to manage. So we’ve got staff members being threatened physically and verbally because they’re trying to enforce this legislation.”

Jackson Boxer, chef patron at Orasay in Notting Hill and Brunswick House in Vauxhall, said in a tweet: “75% of our tables have cancelled this weekend. Fair enough I guess. If anyone wants a seat they’re in plentiful supply!”

Furious chefs who attended this morning’s HospoDemo at Westminster said Tier 2 status was the worst of all worlds because it hugely depressed revenue without triggering the financial packages that come with the even tougher Tier 3 lockdown.

Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton said: “Without financial support from the Government, a huge part of this industry will not survive the winter. We are teetering on a knife-edge, so I urge the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider their support package for the hospitality industry, before they are left with an unemployment crisis that will cost this country dearly.”