News this week that Covid restrictions will not fully end on 21 June as previously planned has come as a fresh blow to the embattled hospitality industry. While bar and restaurant owners were hoping to capitalise on the combination of the good weather and Euros, they are now they are back in survival mode. We spoke to some top London industry figures to gauge their reaction.
Eran Tibi, chef and founder of Bala Baya.
We are so sad to hear about the lockdown extension – mainly for our colleagues in the night trade who will lose another month of important summer trading after more than a year of being shut. Late night eateries, bars, clubs, theatres are all hugely missed around us in Southwark, along with those in the West End. The extension will continue to have a massive impact on a hospitality industry that is crumbling away – it feels like we keep getting crushed again and again.
Charlie Gilkes, Inception Group co-founder
The news was another blow for our industry. Some of our venues, specifically our nightclubs, have been closed for 15 months, meaning we’ve had no income at all for a very long time and our bars are operating with huge capacity constraints. As of next month we will need to start paying a third of our business rates, a higher contribution towards furlough and repayments on our bounce back loans despite still, in many cases, being unable to open. Following last night’s news the government urgently needs to provide additional support to the sector. Every other devolved administration has wavered rates for the next nine months apart from England, for example.
It’s very frustrating that the goal posts keep moving. I understand it’s a difficult decision, but we need to have more clarity and ultimately to learn to live with the virus so we can rebuild our businesses and the economy.
Martin Williams, CEO of Gaucho and M Restaurants
To avoid a terrible own goal, the announced extension of restrictions must come hand in hand with an extension of the current business rates holiday, rent moratorium protection and VAT support. The extension will mean a loss of £3bn of revenue for our sector, now is not the time to let down the hospitality industry [with] 300,000 jobs at risk.
Mark Wogan, founder of Homeslice
The news of a further four weeks of lockdown measures comes as no surprise. However it doesn’t soften yet another blow to our industry. If the industry as a whole is to survive, support needs to be extended. It’s lucky that many of us love what we do or you’d just give up. That said, we have to support the decision and will. Lives have to come before the provision of a good time.
David Toscano Owner of Cin Cin
We’re not surprised this has happened and think we will cope. We have been opening, closing, reopening and risk assessing over and over for the last 15 months so this is just another hurdle to get over. We are ready to find a way to continue serving our customers even if that means having to continue with social distancing rules a little longer.
This is an important summer for us as we have a new opening in Fitzrovia, so we want to build up our presence in the neighbourhood and start to grow a group of regulars who will be the backbone of our trade. Financially we have worked very hard to steady the business and grow again so we want to capitalise on that hunger for hospitality this summer so we can continue that growth.
Tibor Balint, General Manager, Isabel Mayfair
We are really disappointed that restrictions are not lifting next week as we had hoped, of course, but over the last year we have gotten rather good at adapting to last-minute changes.
This impacts the hospitality sector in so many ways, not least financially. One thing we do notice is that the many last-minute changes and leaking of information in the press just leads to more confusion and apprehension amongst our guests. It can be difficult to follow what one is allowed to do. Do I wear a mask? How many people can I dine with? Can I have a business lunch with someone not in my household? (yes, you can!)
The hospitality sector has consistently proven itself to be one of the safest and we have gone above and beyond making everything Covid safe. We were ready for 21 June and will be even more ready for 19 July.”
Nicolas Budzynski, Global Operations Director, LPM
We were expecting positive news, especially on international travel, so we could see tourists coming in to offset Londoners leaving for summer holidays… Between the travel restrictions, social distancing and the lack of staff across the industry, the situation is really tough.
Romain Bourillion, Founder of Rotisserie Chicken experts Cocotte
Our restaurants are neighbourhood spots and tend to have fewer than six people in them, so this won’t make a huge difference to us. It is sad for the wider industry, though. Our bigger problem is recruiting staff – it’s the biggest challenge facing the business at the moment. We have the customers but not the resources. It’s taking a lot of our time and the results of our searches are very weak. It’s also making us concerned about our current staff staying, so we’re doing as much as we can to keep them retained.
Looking forward, we’re wondering how this will impact UK travel – if people are at home in London then we may have a strong summer, if they leave then that will impact our business.