While shops are back open again and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has given the hospitality sector a vital shot in the arm, these are still worrying times for central London. With its office spaces largely empty and with the dramatic drop in international visitors, the West End is a quieter shell of its former bustling self.
A City Hall survey suggests Londoners are still not venturing into central London, with 66 percent of those questioned saying they were unlikely to visit the West End within the next week. On this current track, a third of the area’s retail and hospitality sector could potentially be made redundant by the end of the year, according to the New West End Company.
With this in mind, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to Boris Johnson addressing his concerns for the district and outlining an eight-step plan he urges the government to back in order to help save the West End.
‘In the face of a perfect economic storm, our businesses need urgent and sustained support from Government to ensure they can survive this pandemic,’ says Khan in his letter, in which he also suggested the West End was facing an ‘existential threat’.
The eight points include a business-rates holiday and a financial aid scheme, as well as an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for retail, hospitality, leisure and creative businesses, including coverage of the many freelancers who support the creative and theatre industries the area is known for. Khan also addresses the need for support with rent payments for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Khan also asks the government to help restore public confidence in going out in central London by prioritising investment in Test and Trace and by making face masks and coverings compulsory in busy public spaces.
The CEO of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, welcomed the news: ‘It is very welcome to hear the Mayor echo so many of our calls for support for hospitality and tourism. These sectors have been hammered by the crisis and they are going to be key to the economic recovery, not just of London, but the whole UK.’
However, Khan’s eight-step plan doesn’t address many of the suggestions put to the Mayor by leading hospitality figures in a letter back in June. Chefs and restaurateurs, including Angela Hartnett and Soho House boss Nick Jones, called for a scrapping of the Congestion Charge and an end to quarantine for overseas visitors to help jump-start the struggling sector and save the West End.
Check out the Mayor’s Pay It Forward scheme, helping struggling London businesses.
Not sure on the current rules? Here’s a handy guide to face masks in London.