Friday 23 October 2020 12:03 pm

New covid rules mean 'don't bother opening' says Mark Hix

Save our SMEs

I’m presently sitting in my fish truck in Lyme Regis, where I’ve been since the crack of dawn so I can get the best produce straight from the local fishermen. It’s a far cry from the life I had this time last year, when I might have been preparing the staff at Hix Soho for service, but I think just about everybody is sick of hearing about the goings on in my old business.

Those London restaurants have sadly gone the way of so many restaurants up and down the country since the onset of Covid, and it’s time to start looking at the horizon instead of down the dark well of the past.

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I’m actually glad to be out of London for the time being – it’s too sad to see the city (and especially the City) in such a mess. Even my weekly jaunt down to the smoke has been devoid of any social activities, with my favourite watering hole (well, my favourite watering hole that doesn’t have my name on it) the Groucho Club basically out because of all this silly, counter-productive legislation.

The latest wave of government restrictions basically translates as “don’t bother opening” for the hospitality industry. There’s no way most restaurants can carry on like this, even with today’s slightly improved government scheme (which requires employers to pay staff to work 20 per cent of their normal hours, down from 33 per cent, and pay five per cent of the remainder).

I can’t see how, over the coming months, we don’t see hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost, so out of control has the situation become. The 10pm curfew is especially egregious. What we need is separate rules for restaurants and hotels, because spending an extra half hour enjoying your dessert isn’t going to contribute to the spread of the disease, but necking ten pints in crowded chain pubs then hitting the streets en masse at 10pm sharp certainly will.

So I’m glad I’ve been ensconced in the relative constancy of Lyme Regis. Like many others I’ve reinvented myself on a smaller scale, going back to my roots in Dorset and becoming a fishmonger in my new truck, and buying back Hix Oyster and Fish House from the administrators.

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Colleagues including Robin Hutson at the Pig are also enjoying the benefits of everyone fleeing London, with sales actually up on last year. But we’re all praying there aren’t restrictions coming down the road or that could all collapse overnight.

If you’re reading this from the City, you should head down to 1 Lombard Street, where I’m now in charge of the food and drink offering, and show some support for us there if you haven’t already – I think you’ll be pleased with what we’ve done with this amazing restaurant.

I have more exciting news to share but you’ll have to wait until next week for that, so stay tuned!