The last three weeks of London restaurant news round-ups have concluded with the feeling that “two parallel realities are in play at once.” As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.K., and the government introduces a coronavirus curfew for restaurants, pubs, and bars, this feeling gets starker, with the government seemingly readying hospitality for lockdowns without showing when, where, or why.
- The week started with further pressure on the hospitality curfew, from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph. It set the tone for a week in which the restaurant world pushed for the government to supply evidence for the efficacy of the curfew, so far to no public avail.
- Power and place continue to shape the restaurant world — here’s a video panel on how that plays out in London, New York City, and Los Angeles.
- The pressure on the curfew increased when trade body U.K. Hospitality appealed once again for sector-specific support from the government. The proposals focus on rent and staffing, as they have throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic. They are the two biggest costs for restaurants, and two of operators’ and employees’ greatest fears.
- There will be a vote on the curfew in the House of Commons next week, with Conservative and Labour MPs alike voicing discontent with the measure. While it is ultimately unlikely that the government will be defeated when it holds an 80-seat majority, the unpopularity of both the policy and its implementation is giving Boris Johnson serious problems.
- But restaurants may have bigger problems ahead. On Thursday and Friday, the government leaked and then announced two pieces of news. First, that restaurant, pub, and bar closures are being considered as COVID-19 curbs. Second, that the government will pay two-thirds of employees’ wages when businesses are forced to shut down, entirely, by COVID-19 curbs. Putting aside whether or not coronavirus transmission is significantly connected to going out to eat, this leaves significant disparities between businesses’ recourse to government support depending on where they are, what they serve, and how late they would normally open. A business that relies on late-night food trade in an area with a curfew, but not a lockdown, and therefore cannot offer employees a third of their hours, could not apply for job support after 31 October. A business open all day, in an area with a lockdown, fully closed, could. It’s hard to see why one COVID-19 public health measure that severely depresses revenue merits employment support, and one does not.
- The impact of these policies and the lack of governmental representation for hospitality has led to a petition for a ministerial position representing restaurants, pubs, and bars.
- Great British Bake Off update: Bread Week was the flattest the show has been in a long time; Paul Hollywood thinks that rainbow iconography represents the NHS before the LGBTQI+ movement; here’s hoping for better next week.
Fresh restaurant guides on where to eat in London...
- The best brunches in the city right now.
- Where to eat sushi all over the city.
- A guide to the best sandwiches in London.
- How to get London’s best cocktails at home.
- And how to eat one’s way all around the best restaurants and stalls at Borough Market.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.