The hospitality industry has reacted to the news of being shuttered again for a month, with one restaurateur warning that “it’s going to be carnage”.
From Thursday, restaurants, pubs and bars in England will be shuttered for a month in a bid to stem the rising tide of coronavirus cases in the country.
This second shuttering is due to last until 2 December at the earliest, but may be extended depending on the situation at the time. Food venues will be allowed to continue to operate on a takeaway-only basis.
Xavier Rousset, who runs a number of successful venues in the capital, including the Burgundy-focused Cabotte in the City and The Black Book in Soho, warned that the second lockdown will have serious repercussions early next year.
“The casualties will start appearing early next year. People will hold on until Christmas, but there are big bills to pay and it’s going to be carnage. In January to March next year we’ll see a lot more hospitality venues going down,” he told WLC.
Rousset believes the on-trade has been made a scapegoat during the Covid crisis. “We have been unfairly targeted as we’re an easy target. There’s always a scapegoat and the hospitality industry has been the scapegoat of the pandemic.”
While Rousset had toyed with the idea of offering a takeaway service, he told WLC that he’ll be putting almost his entire team on furlough over the next month.
During the hiatus he will be developing a free app for the hospitality industry where the trade can post jobs, sell kitchen equipment, and even list flat shares.
While business was tough in tier two, Rousset said continuing in tier two would have been preferable to being shuttered completely throughout November. “I would have kept our venues open if we could as we’ve sill got rent and bills to pay. At least there was money coming in, now there’s nothing,” he lamented.
Sam Hart, co-owner of Barrafina, Quo Vadis and El Pastor, believes restaurants in city centres are most vulnerable in the current climate.
“Venues in city centres are going bust left right and centre as rents pile up. By December, a year of rent at some operators won’t have been paid. Sooner or later these unresolved rent issues will become a major problem,” he told WLC.
“We need to try to get our city centres back on their feet again, as they’re a long way off where they should be,” he added.
According to recent data from Public Health England, the hospitality industry accounts for just 2% of traceable coronavirus infections outside of the home, leading many in the industry to feel that they have been unfairly targeted.
As reported by The Handbook, Charlie Gikes, co-founder of Mr Fogg’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoot’s, called the extended lockdown a “kick in the stomach for the entire hospitality industry”.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Downey, who was recently forced to close his iconic Soho cocktail bar Milk & Honey, tweeted this on hearing the news: “It’s March again and we’re right back where we started, but with PPE, worse weather and we’re all sick of this”.
Calls for the hospitality sector to have its own government minister have so far attraced over 37,000 signatures, including a number of top chefs.
UK Hospitality said the second lockdown will be felt even more accutely by the inustry than the first.
“The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks. It will hurt for months and years to come,” the trade body said.
Asma Khan, who has just opened her reincarntion of Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden, told Eater London that the venue will remain open and will offter a takeaway service of the entire deli menu. She is also seeking a delivery partner and hopes to properly open the restaurant on 5 December.
“Like the first lockdown, I think this one was called too late. I’m infuriated by the throwaway comment by Michael Gove that the lockdown may get extended, which is fanning flames of insecurity in the industry. There is total lack of leadership in this government. They are fiddling while hospitality burns,” Khan told Eater London.
Daniel Willis of The Clove Club, Luca and Two Lights told Eater that he hopes his venues will be able to reopen in the run-up to Christmas – a vital trading period for the industry.
“We always knew there was another chance of a lockdown. This time, it’s less of a shock but emotionally it feels more draining, especially after the curfew and tier restrictions. I really hope we get open for Christmas as it’s my favourite time of year at the restaurant,” Willis told Eater London.