Monday 10 August 2020 9:00 am

Sadiq Khan: Saving London's shops and cafes is 'urgent priority'

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said keeping London’s hospitality businesses and venues open should be an “urgent priority” during the pandemic, or the city risks a downturn it may not recover from.

Speaking to City A.M., Khan responded to calls from hospitality businesses to lobby for more support as London gets back on its feet.

“The Covid-19 crisis has changed how we operate as a city in many fundamental ways, but getting businesses and venues thriving in central London once again should now be an urgent priority,” he said.

“If more people aren’t confident the virus is under control, our wonderful ecosystem of shops, bars, cafes and cultural venues is at risk of a damaging slump that could take years to recover from.”

Read more: London hospitality firms beg for more support in crisis

Industry body UK Hospitality wrote to Khan last week, demanding urgent improvements to the “insufficient and inadequate” support provided for struggling businesses in the city centre.

It cited examples such as Brewdog, which is trading at 26 per cent of last year’s sales in central London. Meanwhile, the brewer has reached 66 per cent of 2019 levels in the rest of England.

The bar chain called for a government-led “aggressive, targeted programme of stimulus, support and activity”.

Read more: Slow retail recovery expected as consumers reluctant to spend

Khan’s comments come as City bosses launch a campaign to get staff back in the office, a move which would boost the local economy by bringing spending back to businesses.

“I hope to see more employees returning to the capital from September,” he said.

“I know a huge amount of work is being done by businesses to make their offices safe, whether around office layouts, one-way systems, or enhanced cleaning and hygiene.”

UK Hospitality called for more work to be done across the Transport for London (TfL) network to assuage fears of coronavirus transmission on public transport.

Read more: The return to work: Here’s when City firms are going back to the office

It suggested the introduction of ‘Beat the Virus Guides’ to hand out to commuters, as well as distributing walking tours guides and free face masks at key stations, which could be staffed by furloughed workers or those in danger of being laid off. 

“Giving people the confidence to travel is also vital, which is why as a result of TfL implementing an unprecedented range of safety and hygiene measures, more passengers are now able to travel safely on London public’s transport network, whether for work or to visit the West End,” Khan said.

“The vibrancy of central London is about it being a clean, safe and exciting place to spend time, and its unique appeal is something that will endure long after this Covid-19 crisis.”