Restaurateurs warn placing London in Tier 3 will be 'gratuitous kick in the teeth'

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

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London restaurateurs have warned that moving the capital to Tier 3 and thus forcing the capital's hospitality sector to close will be a 'gratuitous kick in the teeth' for businesses.

Amid reports that the city is 'highly likely' to move to Tier 3​ this week, operators across the capital face the prospect of having to close their doors again; just two weeks after being allowed to reopen following the month-long national lockdown in England.

Des Gunewardena, CEO and co-founder of high-end restaurant group D&D London, says he hopes the move will not happen, but if it does has demanded the Government 'fully compensate' businesses for their loss of earnings in what would usually be one of the busiest weeks of the year.

"In the context of the complete lack of evidence that there are significant Covid infections happening in restaurants, to close restaurants and cancel bookings in what is normally THE busiest week of the year would feel like an almost gratuitous kick in the teeth to London restaurants," he says.

"And if Government does want to treat the hospitality industry as its Covid whipping boy it should at least step up and fully compensate us."

The Government is due to review the country's tier restrictions on Wednesday (16 December), with any changes expected to be implemented on either the Thursday or Friday (17 or 18 December); although some reports suggest the capital could hit with a move to Tier 3 as early as today (14 December).

BBC ​Health Editor Hugh Pym reports​ that council leaders in London are understood to be alarmed at the projected rise in cases in the capital, and some are pushing for a 'Tier 3 plus regime' with tougher restrictions than Tier 3 on its own.

Under current Tier 3 restrictions all hospitality venues must close, although takeaway and delivery are still allowed.

London currently sits in Tier 2, where restrictions ban household mixing in indoor settings and require pubs and bars to close unless they are able to serve a 'substantial meal'.

A 'scary' situation

Should the capital be moved, it will mean modern Japanese restaurant Bisushima - set within the newly refurbished Page8 hotel in London's Covent Garden - will have to close its doors again despite only being able to open them properly earlier this month following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

"The thought of going back into lockdown again is very scary, we’ve barely had time to come out and recover again," says chef-patron Sergey Men.

"We managed to establish a solid delivery service throughout November so we would have something to fall back on, however we cannot keep operating with this in and out approach. It’s not fair on us, our staff or our customers."

Over the weekend reports emerged that London could be split into different tiers to stop 'untold damage' being inflicted on the capital by new stricter lockdown rules. 

In a letter to Boris Johnson seen by the Mail on Sunday​, Tory MPs said that imposing blanket Tier 3 measures on the capital would hurt not just Londoners but 'people across the nation' who depend on the 'wealth and prosperity generated by the city'.

Cokey Sulkin, co-founder of Dirty Bones, says having to close again as a result of the move will be a 'hammer blow'.

"You can’t put a price on people’s lives but moving London into Tier 3 will be a hammer blow to all hospitality businesses in London," he says.

"We have all been working incredibly hard, doing what we can to focus on a productive and profitable December.  

"Putting London into Tier 3 is essentially a third lockdown; each time this happens we are talking about significant losses, as well as more valuable time eaten up dealing with suppliers and landlords for further concessions, when we should be looking forward and putting our post Covid-19 business plans into motion."

London Coronavirus rise 'not linked' to hospitality

Echoing Gunewardena's comments, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said the Government must provide extra support for businesses if the capital is moved from Tier 2 into Tier 3.

Speaking on LBC ​earlier this morning, Khan said imposing the toughest tier across the city would be a 'blunt instrument', arguing that the rise in cases was not linked to hospitality venues but instead due to a significant increase in schools and colleges.

He warned that the move to Tier 3 would be 'catastrophic' for the hospitality sector, adding that without support businesses could close permanently.

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