- Title: London restaurants fret as 'going out' goes out of style
- Date: 16th July 2020
- Summary: FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH OF BURRELL WITH ACTOR, IDRIS ELBA FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH OF BURRELL WITH FOOD ENTREPRENEUR, LEVI ROOTS
- Embargoed: 30th July 2020 11:17
- Keywords: COVID-19 London bars consumers eating out pubs restaurants take-aways
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002CN280UF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Brixton Village market in south London is usually bustling with people eating out, especially at weekends.
But despite the hospitality sector reopening across England on July 4, the numbers of customers appears to be far lower than before the coronavirus pandemic sent the UK into a nationwide lockdown.
Trepidation among consumers has seen many owners wonder whether they will go out of business before the punters come back.
Brian Danclair, owner of Caribbean restaurant Fish, Wings and Tings, said while it was empty on a quiet Tuesday night after the excitement of the first week of reopening, he was confident people were increasingly starting to head out of the house.
But with social distancing restricting customer numbers at peak times, business owners need to fill more tables earlier in the week.
And there is little sign of that happening, despite the exhortations of Prime Minister Boris Johnson for people to get out, spend, and "enjoy summer safely."
The owner of Brixton Village's Etta's Seafood Kitchen fears the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown may have changed customer behaviour for good.
Etta Burrell said she had 30% of the customers at the weekend, compared to the same time last year, but just 7% of the business on a Tuesday night.
It is too early for much data on the numbers of customers in restaurants and bars since they were allowed to reopen.
The latest weekly British Retail Consortium bulletin, which captures July 4 but no later, shows the UK posted the smallest week-on-week rise for any day that week when lockdown was eased.
It is perhaps unsurprising that consumers are cautious.
A poll by Opinium on the day restrictions were lifted showed 52% of people believed pubs, bars and restaurants were reopening too soon and only 24% thought it was the right time.
However, Lydia Harrison, who works at a pub in Hackney, east London, said her place of work seemed as busy as ever, although some customers would insist on sitting outside, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is drastically reduced.
The casual dining sector had been suffering from overcapacity even before the pandemic shuttered businesses and slashed the numbers of people in London's busiest work districts.
High-street fixtures like Carluccios and the owner of Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge have entered administration since the pandemic began.
In a bid to get more people through restaurant doors at off-peak times, the government has launched a $625-million "Eat out to help out" discount scheme, offering half-priced meals from Monday to Wednesday in August.
On Wednesday (July 15), a cut to sales tax to 5% from 20% for eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs also came into effect.
Office for National Statistics data on Thursday (July 16) showed fewer British workers lost their jobs in June and there were other signs that the hit to the labour market had eased off since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, but economists said unemployment remained on course to jump.
(Production: Natalie Thomas, Ben Dangerfield)
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