It has been a confusing and uncertain time for the hospitality industry. Forced to close during the country’s lockdown, facing challenges with employees and rents; allowed to open with limitations post-lockdown; and now, after the Prime Minister’s latest announcement, pubs and restaurants will have to close at 10pm – a measure that the government hopes will help reduce the number of infections, and one that many hospitality experts fear will cause significant damage to the industry.
We hear from a number of Mayfair and St James’s restaurateurs and chefs about their concerns regarding the government’s latest Covid-19 rules
Jeremy King, co-founder and CEO, Corbin & King:
“The new legislation beggars belief and yet again hasn’t been thought through. It will ring the death knell for far too many restaurants unnecessarily. What the government seems to forget is that the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, looks after people better than they look after themselves. The Prime Minister keeps reiterating his trust in the good sense of the British people and yet continues to treat us like children and idiots. At lunch yesterday, as the news broke, a succession of incredulous guests came through the door talking only of dissent and civil unrest.”
Ranjit Mathrani, chairman, MW Eat:
“As a responsible restaurant company punctiliously following the government guidelines, it is deeply concerning that we are lumped in together with households and many drinks-led businesses who have not been following social-distancing guidelines. Restaurants should have been excluded totally, since there does not appear to be any evidence that they have contributed to the increase in the R number.
“The impact of the curfew will be primarily the disproportionate psychological impact on customers who are likely to scale back eating out at earlier eating times – when restaurants are already on their knees. The net financial impact is likely to be devastatingly massive.
“These measures underline the need for urgent action on rent support and an extension of the furlough scheme until March 2021, targeted at the embattled hospitality and other leisure sectors including theatres, concerts and events.”
Ken Sanker, El Pirata:
“Whilst the threat of Covid-19 cannot be underestimated, this decision is a hammer blow to the Industry that is just trying to claw away from a cliff edge. Having just a few weeks ago encouraged eating out and returning to work, this is poor management by the government even though their intentions may be good. Strong, consistent messaging as to how people should behave will yield far greater results than cutting down on opening times.”
Corbin & King’s Brasserie Zédel
Ollie Dabbous, executive chef, HIDE:
“Obviously I’m very sad to hear about the curfew as it hurts the business, but I hope it works as a means to an end. At least we can remain open and the public can still enjoy eating out. Londoners need to continue to support their amazing restaurant industry now more than ever.”
Stuart Procter, COO, The Stafford Collection:
“I’m hugely frustrated, angry and concerned about the new 10pm national curfew. It’s baffling that the government would spend £522m on the brilliant EOTHO scheme last month, encouraging the British public to eat out as much as possible, and now we are back to being enemy number one. Thanks to the scheme, we’ve taken staff off furlough to cope with the demand of customers – what do we do with them now? Once again we’ve seen a huge change of strategy and it’s going to kill off so much of the hospitality industry when we’re proven to be some of the safest businesses in the UK thanks to our new distancing, cleaning and internal tracing measures.
“Within the Stafford Collection, 19% of all reservations are made for dinner post 9pm, not including walk-ins and hotel guests in the bar. This is a huge chunk of business which will now disappear for no good reason. Does the virus only come out post-10pm? As an industry, we had just started to claw our way back from a catastrophic start to 2020, but this will be the nail in the coffin for so many in the hospitality and tourism sector.”
Des Gunewardena, CEO and co-founder, D&D London:
“A 10pm curfew on our restaurants will be very damaging. Since reopening we have been very reliant on the strength of our weekend business, much of which is later evening. This has mitigated the impact of early and midweek business which has been much more challenging with the absence of office workers and tourists. Our large West End restaurants such as Quaglino’s and 100 Wardour Street, which only reopened a few weeks ago, will be particularly hard hit. This move is a kick in the teeth for central London and in particular the West End where footfall was gradually starting to increase.
“It is very difficult to understand the logic for this decision. Public Health England’s own statistics clearly indicate that the recent significant increase in Covid infections is in care homes, schools and workplaces. It is NOT in pubs and restaurants. In fact, less than 5% of infections are taking place in pubs and restaurants. And PHE is also reporting that, yes, Covid infections are rising in the North East and North West of England – but they are apparently NOT rising in London and the South East. So why impose a curfew? Quite feasibly the health situation could actually get worse if after 10pm people left Covid-safe environments in restaurants and bars in order to continue to socialise in each other’s homes.
“In summary, we don’t understand the reasoning behind the curfew, and it will seriously set back the recovery of city centre restaurants – particularly those in the West End of London.”
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