Published 17 October 2020
by Adam Hyman
This week our founder reports back on some cheerier news from CODE HQ before London went into Tier 2.
For the past few weeks when I sit down to pen my weekly article for CODE, I’ve been conscious that the tone has been sombre and somewhat downbeat (I mean, can you really blame me?). But perhaps we can start with some more positive news. For the past two weeks we’ve reached over 1,000 app usages a week by our members here at CODE. It’s been quite a milestone for us since we paused membership during lockdown and started to come out of hibernation on 4 July. Like any business, the easy bit was shutting down but as we all know it takes a lot longer to kickstart things back up again. Despite our weekly app usage being a third of what it was before lockdown, it shows not only the demand for people to still want to dine out but that our members naturally want to support the industry by visiting restaurants and bars.
Last week London has felt the most back to normal since March. The roads have been gridlocked (let’s not talk about those pesky bike lanes that now take up half the street of London) and the pavements seem to have actual people on them. The tubes feel like they’re back to being used (although still a long way off the norm) and the restaurants I visited throughout the week were buzzy. The capital was starting to get back in the swing of things. There was a renewed energy. We’re all masked up and ready to carry on with our lives.
Now London finds itself in Tier 2. We’re all too aware the impact it’s going to have on hospitality over the coming weeks. Speaking to restaurateurs on Thursday and Friday, their phones were ringing off the hook – sadly with customers cancelling bookings. In an article he wrote for the Evening Standard yesterday, Jeremy King said they had over 2,000 covers cancel across their restaurants on Thursday. I struggle to actually comprehend this. They’ve always said being a restaurateur is not the for faint-hearted but this week takes it to new extremes.
This new level of restrictions is another body blow to hospitality. We go to restaurants to have fun, to socialise, to enjoy other people’s company. Dining out is so much more than just about eating food. Now we’ve been told we’re only allowed to do it inside with our household or support bubble. The spontaneity of life has been taken away. It means I’m now breaking the law if I sit inside with a friend for a coffee or glass of wine. It’s all become a bit Big Brother. Despite Paris having a strict 9pm curfew, furlough is still in place for restaurants that decide to temporarily shut and over in Germany a court has overruled an order for bars and restaurants in Berlin to close from 11pm to 6am after finding “it was not apparent” such a measure could help fight coronavirus. Yet hospitality in the UK currently stands with next to no support.
I went to KOL, the new restaurant from Santiago Lastra, on Thursday evening for a dinner where I saw a number of friendly faces from the industry throughout the night who were enjoying langoustine tacos and margaritas together. As I left the warm glow of the new Mexican restaurant on Seymour Street and headed home, I wondered when was the next time we were all going to be allowed to do this again? As the nights start to draw in and we get ever closer to Christmas, we find ourselves still having to fight the fight more than ever for our industry.
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