Covent Garden restaurants cook meal with latest Sunak support

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The main owners of bars and restaurants in Covent Garden in London have applauded Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest support program for businesses and jobs, saying it gave them a lifeline during a harsh winter under restrictions from the coronavirus.

But other restaurateurs have warned that new government efforts to support the hospitality industry amid a second wave of Covid-19 infections may not be enough to save jobs.

Although the capital is not subject to the most stringent coronavirus restrictions currently in place in parts of northern England, London’s entry into so-called Level 2 measures last Saturday made the situation already difficult for them. hospitality companies – involving a 10pm curfew – much worse.

Hotel businesses are allowed to remain open, but households are not allowed to mingle indoors below level 2 in England. Customers who would normally frequent the bars, cafes and restaurants of Covent Street with friends can now only socialize indoors with family or support the bubbles, prompting a plunge into corporate revenue.

Several Covent Garden bar and restaurant owners praised Mr Sunak’s more generous employment assistance program announced on Thursday, and new grants for hotel businesses in level 2 fields.

Shop owners in Covent Garden have expressed concern over lower trade © Charlie Bibby / FT

Customers who would normally frequent restaurants with friends can now only socialize indoors with family or support the bubbles © Charlie Bibby / FT

Jeremy King, who runs Delaunay Restaurant, a popular hangout with city financiers, said Mr. Sunak has given hotel companies a “lifeline”. He added that his larger group of restaurants had 9,000 reservations for October before the introduction of Level 2, but last weekend that number had halved.

Mr King’s restaurants are now operating at a loss, but he still reopened the Delaunay this week after it closed during the nationwide lockdown in March.

“It’s a matter of how much we lose,” King said. “We were faced with the choice of reopening or indefinite closure. We couldn’t imagine having to lay off so many staff – so we decided to take the positive path. It is gratifying to see how much our customers have helped us. ”

Matt Lovell, founder of seafood restaurant Oystermen, said Mr. Sunak’s latest package “means we can probably get on with it. [jobs support] in any form ”.

He added that the move to Level 2 restrictions was a “cliff edge,” with the number of table reservations dropping from 160 on a typical weekday before the pandemic to around 20 or 30. But trading resumed the last one. day, Mr Lovell said Thursday. “People will always want to eat. . . and we are good at what we do, ”he added.

Matt Lovell, left, founder of seafood restaurant Oystermen: “People will always want to eat” © Charlie Bibby / FT

Most restaurants in Covent Garden are open, but many are operating at a loss despite government support © Charlie Bibby / FT

Charlie Gilkes, founder of the Inception Group, which owns Mr Fogg’s tavern in Covent Garden, said Mr Sunak’s new measures should be enough to keep his workforce intact. “This will protect a lot of jobs,” he added.

But some other restaurateurs were much less optimistic.

Ranjit Mathrani, who owns Masala Zone in Covent Garden, said trade fell 60% in the days following the government’s announcement of London’s entry into Tier 2. At these trading levels, it may be “impossible” to keep the restaurant open, added, even with additional support from the treasury.

“At the very least, we’ll have to fire good people,” Mathrani said. “The welcome announced support this week will only temporarily reduce that number.”

Many restaurant and bar employees had to be made redundant due to declining customer numbers © Charlie Bibby / FT

Landlords agreed to a flexible lease lease for tenants, allowing stores to stay open despite difficult trading © Charlie Bibby / FT

Lance Perkins, restaurant and bar manager at Ennismore, which owns the Tandoor Chop House on the outskirts of Covent Garden, said level 2 equated to “stealth death”.

His Covent Garden restaurant has already cut staff from 32 to nine and Mr Perkins has said Mr Sunak’s revamped employment support program will fail.

Meanwhile, with the Chancellor’s new grants for Tier 2 businesses focused on the hospitality and leisure sectors, concern reigned in Covent Garden among shop owners whose trade also fell.

Real estate companies have also been affected. West End listed owner Shaftesbury on Thursday raised £ 297million from investors, saying there had been a ‘material deterioration’ in trading conditions due to Covid-19.

Capco, which owns much of the property in central Covent Garden, has agreed flexible leasing for its tenants, including rents tied to turnover. Almost all of the shops and bars in its area are thus open.

“We have tried to take the lead with our tenants [by saying] “What happened to your business, what do you need to get to the end of the year?” Said Michelle McGrath, CEO of Capco.

Capco is doing what he can to woo people in Covent Garden, in part by ‘wintering’ the square and the surrounding streets with blankets and outdoor heaters for outdoor dining.

The outdoor tables at Tuttons, a corner restaurant, were full Thursday night, with a small line of people waiting to be served.

Daniel Coffer, Director of Development at Tuttons, said the alfresco dining helped keep the business “more than acceptable” throughout the summer, even though revenue was now around 40. % over last year after 10pm curfew and level 2 restrictions.

But he kept his staff and was hopeful that more customers would return due to the region’s enduring appeal. “Customers want to sit outside,” Coffer said. “As winter progresses, as we find ways to keep customers safe, we are in a unique position in Covent Garden.”

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