esperate London restaurateurs today spoke of their frustration at having to wait another three months to reopen their dining rooms as bookings for tables started to flood in.
Boris Johnson announced yesterday that hospitality venues will be able to serve drinks and meals outdoors from April 12 but not reopen indoors until May 17 under the Government’s roadmap plans. Even then numbers and mixing of households will be limited until the full easing of social distancing on June 21.
Nick White, owner of The Orange Buffalo which has three London outlets with no outside space, said: “For those of us with no outdoor seating it’s going to make or break a huge amount of businesses and it seems bizarre that other sectors are being deemed more safe for indoor social contact.”
Some restaurateurs said they feared new failures in the spring because they were not able to secure support from banks to help tide them through.
David Moore, owner of Pied à Terre in Fitzrovia, said: “This confirmed date also means we are going to see a number of restaurants who will not survive in the upcoming weeks.
“I fear the hospitality casualties have not even started to peak.”
Victor Lugger, founder of Big Mamma Group, which has two restaurants in London, said: “This attitude of ‘keep calm and carry on, we can stay in lockdown for another few months’, seems insane at this point.
“That we are to open outdoor dining first, then five weeks later open indoor dining is absurd. We can’t open halfway. We need to be fully open.”
Jeremy King, chief executive of Corbin & King, owner of The Wolseley and Delaunay, said: “It is the practicality of what they have announced that concerns me.
“If you can only sit outside, what happens when you need to go to the loo? And what happens if it rains? Normally a restaurant with a terrace will allow space inside so people can move in.
“I don’t understand how a hair salon can reopen but a restaurant can’t. The Government make it very difficult to support them.”
Matt Grech-Smith, co-founder of indoor crazy golf venues Swingers, said: “I’m all for caution and safety, but waiting until May 17, when we will have been closed for six months seems ridiculously extreme.
“I’m currently in New York City working on the expansion of our business and here restaurants and bars are allowed to open at 25 per cent capacity and increasing shortly to 35 per cent.
“Across the board, these venues are being operated safely whilst moving incrementally back towards normal trading. When will the UK Government recognise that hospitality can be opened safely now, and stop treating the industry like it can’t be trusted?”