London is emerging from the most surreal and challenging period for its city dwellers in recent history. Its local businesses and iconic buildings have felt the impact, too – and continue to do so under social distancing. As part of our ongoing Love Local campaign, we reached out to some of Time Out’s favourite institutions, businesses, creators and makers to find out what is troubling them on this side of lockdown – and then we took those questions to The Big Man himself, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, to see what can be done. Here’s what the boss had to say.
Nick Stephens, landlord of The Gun and The Compton Arms, says:
‘As the owner of local pubs, The Gun and The Compton Arms, we reluctantly crowdfunded to survive the pandemic. With the new rules from July 4, our pubs (already small-sized venues) will be running at 50 percent capacity. My fellow hospitality business owners and I are extremely concerned about breaking even, let alone being able to afford rent. What will you be doing to support us to secure the future of London’s food and beverage businesses?’
Sadiq Khan says:
‘It was such a welcome sight to see our city beginning to open up again at the start of this month. For the first time in months, Londoners started going back to cafés, bars and restaurants, providing an important boost to our hospitality industry. But clearly there is a long way to go before we return to normality and I know from speaking with businesses that many cannot open yet and that there are more tough times ahead.
‘Our pubs have been a key part of our history for generations and a hub for our communities, so it’s hugely important that their future is secured. That’s why I have been encouraging Londoners to show their support through our Pay It Forward scheme – where Londoners buy vouchers for goods and services which they can redeem later – and relaunched our #LondonIsOpen campaign to encourage Londoners to enjoy [pubs] safely now their doors are opening. My Night Czar Amy Lamé has also been meeting with a range of hospitality and pub groups to offer our support.
‘But what’s urgently needed is help from government. I welcomed the move this week to reduce VAT to five percent for the hospitality and entertainment sectors, and the jobs retention bonus, but these are simply insufficient given the impact of Covid-19. I will continue to push the government to ensure there is the level of support that is needed, including a targeted continuation of the furlough scheme.’
Angela Hartnett, chef-patron of Murano and Café Murano, says:
‘How are we going to drive business in central London when we are faced with the issues we’ve laid out in our letter to you: mixed messaging from the government, discouraged tourism, not enough adequate cycle routes, increased congestion charge, closed offices. We need a campaign for Christmas. Why can’t the central government and the Mayor come together for the good of the capital?’
Sadiq Khan says:
‘I’m unashamedly proud to say that we live in the greatest city in the world, and I assure you that I will always campaign to promote our capital. That’s why I was so pleased to relaunch my #LondonIsOpen campaign at the start of the month to welcome the safe reopening of our city’s amazing hospitality industry.
‘Working closely with councils across London, we have already done a huge amount of work to create more safe space for walking and cycling in the capital, and widening streets, pavements and public spaces for those on foot will remain a key part of reopening our economy safely.
‘I have been determined to also work closely with government in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of Londoners impacted by this pandemic. That is why I co-chair the London Transition Board – mapping London’s move from lockdown to recovery – with the secretary of state for the ministry of housing, communities and local government, and why I invited the minister for London to join the London Recovery Board to help coordinate planning for London’s future post Covid. Even so, I continue to urge the government to do more to help secure jobs and protect industries, including culture, to ensure our capital gets the best possible support.’
Michael Fuller, interim managing director of Philharmonia Orchestra, says:
‘London has a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s leading centres for orchestral music. From recording studios to concert halls, London’s musical ecosystem supports more world-class musicians than probably any city in the world. With this ecosystem now under threat, what can you do to support orchestras and musicians as we emerge from coronavirus shutdown?’
Sadiq Khan says:
‘Our city is renowned around the world for our thriving music scene. We have some of the finest artists and performers across all genres of music, including orchestras. I know this has been a challenging time for orchestras who, as well as not being able to perform, have not been able to practise together due to social distancing.
‘After a long break, it is encouraging that outdoor performances can start again and that a number of small, indoor test events will be taking place. It will be vital that everyone acts responsibly to protect the people around them, following all the measures that have been put in place – this means socially distanced performances, reduced capacities and recording visitor details.
‘This means performers and venues still need support, which is why I’m lobbying the government to ensure that their new funding is widely available and that it supports the full creative ecosystem – the whole cast and not just the headline acts. The furlough scheme needs to be extended for the creative industries and support for freelancers, who have been particularly hard hit, must be extended through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.’
Louise Stewart, CEO of Alexandra Park and Palace, says:
‘Many independent entertainment venues are struggling financially due to Covid-19. What can you do to support them and ensure they can continue to make their essential contribution to the economy, identity and culture of London?’
Sadiq Khan says:
‘London’s entertainment venues make a huge contribution to life in our capital. They are part of the fabric of our city, they drive the economy and will undoubted play a key role in helping us to recover from this crisis. By closing their doors, our music venues, pubs and bars have played their part in tackling this health crisis, and they need our support now and in the future.
‘News that socially distanced performances can now start to happen is a welcome step in the right direction but we’re clearly still a long way from many venues being able to open their doors and many who will be able to put on performances won’t see their revenues return to what they were before.
‘That’s why I have been doing all I can to support the industry. I launched a £2.3m emergency fund to support music venues, LGBTQ+ venues, independent cinemas and artist studios. I launched Pay It Forward to help Londoners pay for goods and services in advance, expanded our Culture at Risk office to provide support to business owners, and continue to call on the government to provide the comprehensive support this vital industry needs.’
Stephen Woolley, producer of ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘Made in Dagenham’, says:
‘How can the Mayor help support the independent cinemas that provide such an incredible service to Londoners? The capital may be slow to return and is there any kind of fund that they can access to see them through these dark times?’
Sadiq Khan says:
‘The independent cinemas across our city are real cultural gems. They provide a platform for a wide range of talent, celebrating originality and diversity, and giving our film industry a huge boost.
‘I know they have been particularly struggling and I was pleased to be able to provide £150,000 to the BFI through my Culture at Risk Business Support Fund to help 15 independent cinemas.
They’re also able to access our Pay It Forward scheme – and I’d urge them to sign up so Londoners can buy tickets and other goods in advance during these challenging times.’
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