One of the most successful and familiar London restaurant brands, St. John, has announced as of tomorrow it will cease all operations — including for takeaway and collection — in a bid to provide a duty of care towards its staff, as restaurants across the capital battle with a new reality in the wake of the devastating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In an email to customers this lunchtime, the owners wrote: “At this extraordinarily difficult moment our priority must be our duty of care towards our staff, protecting them from unnecessary travel and exposure.
“This afternoon we have taken the painful but important decision to close production at our bakery for the time being, meaning that we will also be closing the takeaway counters at our restaurants [in Clerkenwell and at Bread and Wine in Spitalfields], our Bakery Arch in Bermondsey, and our little bakery and bottle shop in Neal’s Yard.”
The bakery on Druid Street in Bermondsey will open once more — tomorrow, 24 March, between 8am and noon — in order to avoid wastage. The restaurant counters, in Clerkenwell and Spitalfields, and the small bakery site in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, which were set up this weekend to serve takeaway food, will close today (23 March) at 4pm “for the foreseeable future.”
Restaurants across the capital — forced by the government on Friday evening to close for an indefinite period of time — are having to adapt quickly to a new reality for their business, their staff, and their customers. Many businesses have set up new delivery operations since the government’s new social distancing measures were announced a week ago, but this unprecedented situation is extremely fluid and is going to make further hard decisions for businesses across the capital inevitable over the coming weeks. There remain some small ways for customers to continue to support restaurants during this period.
St. John has also said it will continue to sell wine via its website, but will do so only via delivery. “All else may be closed, but please remember that we are still operating our online wine shop ... and we still have excellent stocks in our warehouse,” they wrote. There is no minimum order; delivery is free for orders over £150.
“At times like these, small luxuries like a good glass of wine can feel especially sustaining.”