London restaurant owners have berated the government’s new tier 2 lockdown placed on the capital, which brings new restrictions but offers no financial support.
Unlike the more severe tier 3 – which itself is not without difficulties, and still places extraordinary strain on businesses – all hospitality ventures are allowed to continue to trade, but are not granted any funding to help survive through the period.
Tier 2 means people are allowed to go out to eat and drink but must only do so with their households and in their support bubbles.
As well as the dampened custom, the more extreme measures also notably reduce customer confidence, with an increasing number reluctant to dine.
Restaurant and pub owners are calling on the government to offer more support – it is, in so many ways, a catch 22: ‘You don’t have to close, but you may as well, because hardly anyone is now going to visit’.
This applies more readily to city centres, and isn’t hard and fast. But one thing’s for certain: London, and the likes of Essex and York, which have also been put into tier 2, face an uphill struggle.
Grégory Marchand, chef-patron of Frenchie in Covent Garden, said: “We’re now being told that we can stay open but households can’t mix so in other words, we’re once again expected to survive, be viable and look after our staff at the same time but with no support from the government.
“How are we supposed to do that? These new measures will have a disastrous impact on our business!
“We’ve already made sure we’re operating as safely as possible and we have followed the government’s advice. Now, we’re expecting the Government to show its commitment and support to our industry as many livelihoods depend on it.”
Anna Haugh, from Mrytle, said: “Level two of the worst computer game known to man. There will be no prizes when we get to the end of this level. I am lost for words if I’m honest. I’m tired of highlighting why the government are clearly not thinking things through.
“We can clearly see they are out of their depth. The sad thing is hospitality and other industries are going to be the victims of these bizarre experiments or restrictions.
“My biggest issue is that there is very little information about the virus given to us. Little education and this increases fear. I want to know why they are doing what they are doing so I feel safe and that I am I fact doing the right thing.”
Francois O’Neill, Maison Francois, told Harden’s: “This is yet another set back for our fantastic industry and the people that work within it. Not only will it have an impact on restaurants directly but will also hugely impact our supply chain, the small scale producers and farmers we work with up and down the country.
“Londoners are resilient and we will get through this together, I can’t thank them enough for the overwhelming support we have had since opening our doors. I just wish there was someone representing us properly within government, current decision making is an absolute farce.
“It is disappointing we have a Mayor who seems to do everything within his power to threaten the support and current weak foundations of central London businesses. It’s incredibly disheartening.”
And UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: “Being moved into tier 2 is a curse for businesses. They will be trapped in a no man’s land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in tier 3. It is the worst of both worlds for businesses.
“Venues in London have already taken a hit due to the dip in inbound tourism and with people increasingly working from home. A move into tier 2 will now be catastrophic for some of them and it is only going to be made worse by the end of the furlough scheme in under two weeks.
“The Government must remove employer contributions from the Job Support Scheme for hospitality or apply tier 3 job support to tier 2 businesses. If it does not, we are looking at catastrophic businesses closures and widespread job losses in the capital as early as 1 November.”