London restaurateurs call on Government for specific action for the capital

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London-based restaurateurs are calling on the Government for more specific support for the capital’s businesses to avoid it becoming one of the biggest casualties of the Coronavirus pandemic.

An open letter to the Government entitled ‘July 4th is no Silver Bullet for London Town’ signed by restaurateurs including Trevor Gulliver, Fergus Henderson, Angela Hartnett, Soren Jessen, Chris and Jeff Galvin, Lawrence Hartley, Henry Harris, Melanie Arnold, and Margot Henderson, describes London as a ‘ghost town’ and calls on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for specific support for the city, saying: “London is the biggest target, it mustn’t be the biggest casualty”.
“July 4th is no silver bullet for London Town, hidden by scenes of mobbed urban parks and commons and the crazy seaside on our screens. The centre of London remains a ghost town. Theatres are closed, until 2021 for many, the Arts are trying to come out of hibernation, restrictions are to come for cinema and visitor attractions, no attended sport, no public gatherings, concerts or events,” the letter reads.

“The hotels have been closed and are expecting a torrid recovery, there is no long distance tourism and those looking for cheap flights are leaving the country not coming to it, add to that quarantine rules and confusion, was there a need to increase and extend the congestion charge and London is getting cleaner is the message.

“August is looking dire and the damage to July is already done. [Working from home] has been successful, many significant offices will not open again until the Autumn, some not until the New Year, the City is a ghost town with Fridays, once buzzing, particularly now empty, with many restaurants not reopening yet. Chinatown has its particular problems. Our transport system cannot deliver people to the workplace and there is a general unease in the public mind about dining out and coming into London generally.

“The initial Government support was most welcome, for those able to access it, but that is tapering down and the issues over rent have not gone away and redundancies loom. Some businesses hope for a good Christmas already however that’s something in the future and not guaranteed. We need specific support and action now, for the PM and The Mayor to sort out their differences.

"The Mayor seems to have gone AWOL and no one can name the ‘Ministerfor London’. Our MPs have been helpful but it needs the Mayors of the City and of Westminster to start making a noise too.”

The letter comes as businesses in the capital feel they need specific support from the Government beyond 4 July, when restaurants, bars and hotel are allowed to reopen, according to St John co-founder Trevor Gulliver, who is one of the main voices behind the movement. Hospitality businesses are being encouraged to put together a list of things they believe need to see happen for London with the intention of getting Government to act on it.

“We support the work of the various trade and sector bodies across hospitality, several of us sit on UKHospitality, AIR and other committees, tronc campaigns, Jonathan Downey’s [Hospitality Union] work and efforts and more,” says Gulliver. “This is specifically about London Town.”

Lawrence Hartley, co-owner of Joe Allen, who is also behind the campaign says: “It’s imperative that there is a central London initiative to revive our industry, without this the capital’s high street will start to disappear when you think how many food businesses there are.”

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