Winter arrives early for hospitality players as Londoners stay at home

Linda J. Dodson

Trade body UKHospitality wrote to the Mayor last week, complaining of his “inadequate” measures to revitalise the city’s economy and demanding a clear plan to lead its recovery.

Among the measures suggested by UKHospitality was a freeze on any further changes to the London congestion charge. Khan raised the charge by 30pc to £15 per day in June as part of a £1.6bn government bailout deal for Transport for London. The department was forced to go cap in hand to the Government after suffering a 90pc drop in income.

The increase means workers commuting into London by car Monday to Friday will now be required to pay £300 per month. The charge has also been extended to weekends.

“One of the biggest mistakes has been the change to the congestion charge; that’s had a huge impact,” says James Robson, chairman of Mayfair restaurant Fallow. “Putting a congestion charge on at a weekend is a monumental mistake.”

While businesses in the City have the absence of office workers to contend with, the situation is exacerbated for restaurants and pubs in areas such as the West End and South Kensington, where theatres and music venues would usually provide a draw for visitors. A rethink last month to prevent indoor performances from restarting has meant these venues are now barred from reopening until at least Aug 15.

Craig Hassall, chief executive of the Royal Albert Hall, has previously warned that the historic concert hall could go bust by early next year if it is unable to reopen and obtain urgent funding. “In areas such as the West End, the South Bank and South Kensington, you rely on the cultural sector as the draw for millions of people; we all rely on footfall,” Hassall says.

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