Jeremy King and co. find solace in ‘business lunch’ loophole

There has been talk this week that business meetings are permissable in restaurants and bars – a loophole for Tier 2 and 3 enterprises.

The policy was written before the tiers system was implemented, so it is now a little grey. UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls said she was seeking “urgent clarification” as to whether groups of 30 are still allowed to meet in hospitality venues to wine, dine, and talk… business.

At present, all is a little blurry, but the point is nobody in Government has come out to say that people aren’t allowed to meet for business lunches, so that’s sort of where we’re at. Moreover, no official has told restaurant managers or bar staff to deny such customers a fill and the opportunity to conduct negotiations.

Jeremy King has certainly taken this on, writing this week that while his West End restaurants have suffered a 50 per cent drop in trade since the announcement of Tier 2 rules in London, there is “a glimmer of hope”.

He wrote: “Whether the Government does a U-turn on this as well remains to be seen but frankly I have had enough of prevarication, indecision and contradictions and am pressing ahead on this basis irrespectively.”

And so, for “work purposes”, it would appear that even if establishments are thrust into the non-lucrative and pitifully more stringent higher tiers, where different households aren’t allowed to mix, there might be a way.

Until the Government says otherwise (and we do not want to tempt fate) the current line from No.10 is thus: “People are permitted to meet indoors for work purposes in high or very high areas”.

King added: “There you have it. We will still need to limit the table sizes to six but otherwise we propose to proceed as above.

“And whilst I am writing I am delighted to report that The Delaunay did go ahead and open today (Tuesday)”.

Martin Williams, CEO of M Restaurants and Gaucho, had the same idea.

He said: “Having spent the past month consulting with the City of London Police, UK Hospitality and our legal counsel at the highest level (Barristers and Queens Council), we believe that our interpretation of the government guidance is that business meetings which the guest deems reasonably necessary for work purposes are permitted to take place in our covid-secure venues. At these meetings, food and beverages are permitted to be served.

“The fact that restaurants are having to search for rationale to permit a common-sense approach to safe dining in our venues, is an indictment on Sadiq Khan who made claims to be the most pro-business Mayor of London, yet has completely failed to support hospitality nor a broader business.

“We worked with the cabinet-office to help them define ‘Covid Secure’ when we re-opened out of lock-down, we will continue to carry out due diligence with business lunches to ensure that we have the very best practice in our Gaucho and M Restaurants to allow both our people and our guests to work and dine safely. One of the special moments we see regularly in our ‘city restaurants’ is the combination of business deals being struck, whilst finest hospitality and food are offered.

“In the past months, the public have appreciated this more than ever – now is not the time to shackle our industry further, nor to prevent the businesses who have loyally championed us since inception, remaining part of our community.

“In summary, in line with our previous discussions, you can hold a business meeting/event, but food and drink need to be served to seated persons, who then remain seated.”

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