‘Disaster’ for London's hospitality industry as capital hit by Tier 3

14 December 2020, 17:33 | Updated: 15 December 2020, 16:07

People outside a pub in London's West End as stricter coronavirus measures were announced for the capital
People outside a pub in London's West End as stricter coronavirus measures were announced for the capital. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

London’s pubs, restaurants and theatres are reeling at the prospect of new stricter coronavirus restrictions as the capital moves into Tier 3.

Greater London, as well as parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, will move to Tier 3 due to a "very sharp, exponential rise" in cases, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.

The new curbs, which will force pubs and restaurants to close except for takeaway services over the busy Christmas period, will be in place from 12:01am on Wednesday.

READ MORE: London Tier 3: Capital to follow toughest Covid rules as cases surge

READ MORE: 'New variant' of coronavirus identified in UK, Hancock says

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the news was "incredibly disappointing for our businesses who have suffered so much already this year".

"We now urgently need much more government support for the sectors of our economy that are being hit the hardest, including hospitality, culture and leisure", he added.

The Charlotte Despard Pub in Archway, north London, had been set to open on Tuesday after having a kitchen installed to allow it to serve food.

Money for the kitchen was raised as part of a crowdfunding appeal. However, with London entering Tier 3 it will not be able to reopen as planned.

The pub’s co-owner Amber Knight told LBC: “It’s entirely predictable. We accept London needs to be in Tier 3 – it probably needed to be put in Tier 3 last week – but the whole managing of everything has been a disaster from start to finish.

“It’s a disaster across the board – for brewers and snack suppliers as well.

“[The Government is] making the same mistakes they made earlier in the year a second time, the messaging has been terrible, the whole one rule of Cummings and one rule for everyone else – that's when it all started going wrong.

“There isn’t any proper recognition of what hospitality and entertainment contribute to the UK economy – we've been hung out to dry.”

She added the pub still hadn’t received promised support from the Government, including the £1,000 grant pledged to wet pubs last month.

The owner of a London restaurant chain described this year as "very difficult" for his business.

Will Bowlby, who runs Kricket, said of the capital going into Tier 3: "We're used to it now, unfortunately. We're used to opening and shutting and opening and shutting and we just have to keep going."

From a business perspective, he said the Government has handled things "really badly" and "mixed messages" have made things more difficult.

Speaking from the Brixton branch of his Indian restaurants, Mr Bowlby said: "The messaging hasn't been clear, it's been very difficult to pivot sometimes when really you don't know what's going on."

He added: "I understand that things change but I feel like there's just been mixed messages. Whether it's applied to businesses or to people in general, it's made it a lot more difficult to adapt.

"You would have thought over time their messaging might have got a bit clearer but it hasn't."

The director of the Theatres Trust labelled the move into Tier 3 as a "disaster" for theatres.

Jon Morgan said: "Theatres have worked incredibly hard to create safe environments for audiences and through no fault of their own will now face enormous financial losses.

"2020 has been a catastrophic year for theatre and today's announcement has compounded that."

Julian Bird, chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, added: "The past few days have seen venues beginning to reopen with high levels of Covid security, welcoming back enthusiastic, socially distanced audiences.

"Theatres across London will now be forced to postpone or cancel planned performances, causing catastrophic financial difficulties for venues, producers and thousands of industry workers.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that thousands of jobs could be at risk from Tier 3 restrictions being imposed on London. 

Eddie Curzon, the CBI's London director, said: "Businesses – particularly those in sectors like retail and hospitality – will have been counting on a festive fillip to help mitigate months of hardship, and further restrictions now will come as a devastating blow. Thousands of jobs and livelihoods could be at risk.

"The Government must do everything possible to help businesses survive until risks recede and trade returns."