The huge annual London Coffee Festival (LCF) will be postponed until July, the latest in a series of U.K. restaurant and restaurant industry precautions against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The annual event at the Truman Brewery in Hackney, which is a hub for London’s speciality coffee scene and showcases many of its best cafes and coffee roasters, will be moved from its original date of 2 — 5 April, also postponing the annual Coffee Masters competition which runs in London and New York City. The event will now take place from 23 — 26 July 2020, according to coffee industry sources. Tickets are still on sale, but an email statement from the festival posted to Instagram by coffee enterprise Socratic Coffee says “we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the London Coffee Festival 2020 to 23 — 26 July.” It also says that “all bookings and the full event programme will be automatically transferred to the new dates.”
A total of 213 exhibitors will still be slated to appear at the rearranged event, but with 10 of the 16 Coffee Masters competitors, tens of those exhibitors, and a good proportion of the expected 30,000 attendees coming from overseas and owning small, independent businesses, the postponement could result in thousands of lost revenue and outgoings from travel and accommodation costs and it may not be economically valuable to commit a second time. This doesn’t make such a precaution less necessary, with the festival joining RAW Wine Fair in choosing to safeguard its participants.
Incoming Barista Guild of Europe chair, Jessie May-Peters, stressed that while international events like the London Coffee Festival are key to the industry’s strength, the impact of novel coronavirus could lead to a necessary — but welcome — reinforcement of more local initiatives:
Though international and large scale events are huge markers in the calendar every year, we know that what keeps momentum and engagement most for baristas is the events happening close to home. For many, that’s a latte art throw down at a cafe, a local coffee community hosting talks, coffee swaps, and regional small scale coffee events.
The specialty coffee scene is afforded community by the bucket load, and so we have been working to make our community events calendar a key resource for people seeking local events to them. In light of coronavirus, people may find it more beneficial than ever to seek community closer to home. It also means that people can reduce their travel emissions, as there are so many great options to connect and grow nearby.
James Hennebry, co-founder of Rosslyn, one of London’s best coffee shops, told Eater:
Allegra contributes a great deal to speciality coffee in the U.K. with the staging of the LCF. It’s a fantastic representation of the considerable talent and energy that makes up our industry and so its presence will be missed this April. Needless to say however, the attendees’ safety must be paramount and no doubt this decision has not been taken lightly. Rosslyn looks forward to attending at the rearranged dates in July.
Jordan Michelman, co-founder of preeminent coffee news publication Sprudge, said:
Professionally for us, at this time, it amounts to a schedule change — we’ll be there in July and look forward to participating both as coverage partners and as a part of the festival’s programming (this year we’re presenting a series of live podcasts).
But it’s also extremely disappointing. We’ve been traveling to London each year for this festival for the last six years, and it’s become much more than just a work trip for us — it’s a cultural investment in our company and in ourselves as coffee drinkers, wine lovers, and restaurant obsessives. Postponing this trip also means canceling a dozen dinner and lunch reservations and we’re gutted to have to do that to all these great places in the middle of a disaster like this.
Fulya Naim, of two-strong cafe and wine bar group Balcone, reflected on the amount of work that goes into producing such an event:
We were planning on attending not as trade but we had some exciting things planned in the lead up with other roasteries. It’s just nice for the industry to together and catch up. Obviously public safety is paramount to us all, but it’s just a shame that events people have worked really hard towards, across all industries, are being affected. And you just have to wonder, to what end?
More soon on the cancellation, including more from cafe and roastery owners on the decision and its impact. Eater has contacted Allegra Events for an official statement on the postponement.