First swathe of closures starts as coronavirus hits hospitality industry

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

18 March 2020

A number of bars and restaurants have taken the difficult decision to close their doors temporarily at least due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Announcements from business owners have been growing in numbers over the last 24 hours as the pressure of the government’s advice for public to stay away from hospitality outlets sees UK venues losing custom.

One of the first announcements came yesterday from Speakeasy Entertainment, owners of London bars Oriole, Swift and Nightjar, of which the latter two had their last shift last night. All three venues will be closed for a minimum of two weeks.

Swift’s Mia Johannsson and Edmund Weil spoke on Channel 4 news last night (17 March 2020) about how the industry is dealing with the crisis.

‘Most hospitality businesses have been doing frantic ring-rounds,’ explained Weil. ‘[They’re calling] everyone from HMRC to landlords to their biggest suppliers to say, “could we please have a freeze”, because it’s all about eeking out what everyone’s got in the bank for as long as possible.’

London Cocktail Club also announced the closure of its bars in a response to the Covid-19 crisis. In a statement on Instagram, the group wrote: ‘London Cocktail Club is built on our love for those unforgettable nights with your friends and bartenders, brimming with cocktails and dreams. We’ve been partying with you for 10 years and we’re looking forward to partying with you again for the next 10.’

The largest amounts of closures have been across the restaurant industry. Hospitality behemoth D&D London announced that it will be closing all of its UK restaurants, following the government-enforced closures of its venues in Paris and New York, while Big Easy Group will be closing all of its sites except its Chelsea restaurant.

In an Instagram statement, the group alluded to how it is coping with staff employment: ‘As a consequence, it is with great sadness that we have been forced to end the employment of some of our exceptional team members. We have offered in many cases unpaid leave so many of our staff will have their jobs assured at the end of this nightmare.’

Other multi-site operator Corbin & King (whose premises include The Wolseley, The Delauney, Brasserie Zedal and Bar Americain) released a closing statement saying: ‘Under the circumstances, this move was inevitable. Our priority now is to look after our staff and ensure we remain in the best possible shape, ready to reopen as soon as possible.’

Part of the Lyan group, Cub in Shoreditch also announced it would be closing its doors, while sister site Lyaness at Sea Containers House remains open.

Today will also see Hawksmoor close its restaurants, with a strong statement around supporting its staff and smaller businesses who may need the public’s help: ‘We will be focusing on our staff and whether we can help people more. We also believe other restaurant businesses will need your custom more. Many of you have made the kind offer or gesture to buy vouchers… we would recommend giving the support to smaller businesses.’

As well as restaurants and bars, industry bodies are making the decision to suspend normal business operation. WSET School London has announced it will postpone all classroom classes, tasting and events until 4 May 2020.

More updates on this story as we get them.

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