The first week of trading under tier two coronavirus restrictions alongside the extant 10 p.m. hospitality curfew has been difficult for London’s restaurants, pubs, and bars. While new job support measures may provide a little relief, it is ultimately those two policies that are seriously stifling trade, and they again dominated the conversation this week in the London restaurant world.
- The week began with a demonstration. The “Hospo Demo” announced its intention to assemble in Parliament Square in the previous week, and over 600 restaurant workers protested against the combination of the 10 p.m. curfew and the tier two restrictions. At that protest, influential restaurant figures again pushed the government for clarity on its COVID-19 policy. London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined the chorus the following day, urging the government to scrap the 10 p.m. curfew.
- By the time the week ended, they — and the rest of the London restaurant world — had improved, if not ideal job support and grants for tier two. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s improvement on the job support scheme somewhat reduces the conflict between measures that reduce trade and the “viable jobs” that the support scheme is designed for, but it follows the government trend of introducing measures after the problems they are designed to fix have already done damage.
- The severity of that potential damage was the headline for hospitality trade bodies this week, with U.K. Hospitality joining British Institute of Innkeeping, and the British Beer & Pub Association in warning that 750,000 hospitality jobs were at serious risk before Sunak announced the new package. That package won’t help positions already unable to work hours.
- And, ultimately many restaurant figures feel any support package is unequal to the impact of restrictions. Jeremy King, of the Wolseley, Delaunay, Colbert, Fischer’s, and Soutine, again lambasted the government, calling tier two restrictions “another knee jerk, ineffective, window-dressing, butt-covering initiative.”
- The other key discussion around tier two in London restaurants was an apparent loophole for “business lunches.” Throughout the week, restaurants continued to use Instagram not as a platform for pretty dishes, but to react to the fast-changing measures, broadcasting their willingness to seat tables on “working” engagements.
- Then, before Sunak announced his package, he met with hospitality representatives in a closed branch of pizza restaurant Franco Manca. At 8 a.m. in the morning the meeting was set up with participants two metres apart, in a clearly staged photo-op for a restaurant-oriented policy being debated inside, well, a restaurant. After a media interview in which Sky’s Kay Burley asked minister Stephen Barclay why Rishi Sunak had met with colleagues in a restaurant under tier 2 regulations, and Barclay said people can, the inevitable “one rule for them” backlash started. But Sunak wasn’t in an open restaurant, and he wasn’t having lunch — the problem, again, was the bungling nature of government coronavirus policy, whose inconsistencies lead people to ask questions about proof of address in pubs.
- The biggest food story outside restaurants was in Parliament, where 322 MPs voted against extending free school meals through school holidays until Easter 2021. All 322 were Conservatives.
- Rounding up the best of the rest: Gordon Ramsay’s next move is a tribute to the 2010s in London burgers at Harrods; restaurant delivery challenger Big Night has raised over £125,000 to scale; Buvette, a buzzy ode to French bistro culture in New York City’s West Village, will open in Notting Hill; chef Sally Abé will oversee four new dining openings at a £1.75 million reboot of Westminster hotel Conrad London.
- Great British Bake Off update: Pastry Week was a return to the showstopper art and ambition that people love, but the show as a whole still doesn’t feel right at all.
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- And where to eat outside in London, when it’s raining.
Until next week, eat well and be safe.