The City of London has borne the brunt of UK restaurant closures since the start of the pandemic, with one in seven businesses closing as the shift to home working has hampered the hospitality sector in the financial district.
Between March 2020 and June of this year, 14 percent of licensed Square Mile locations closed, according to data compiled by AlixPartners and industry tracker CGA.
Around 14 per cent of restaurants also closed in Birmingham, England’s second largest city. The next worst-hit city was Glasgow, where 10 per cent of hospitality businesses closed. Only the London Boroughs of Croydon, Ealing and Hounslow faced a higher number of restaurant closures.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the capital was adding restaurants, bucking the trend of closures in the rest of the UK. The number of places increased 10 percent in the five years between March 2014 and March 2019.
This year’s figures reveal changes wrought by the pandemic in the city and other business districts where restaurants, pubs and cafes typically relied on office workers for personalized attention. In early August, visits to workplaces in the City of London were down 33% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Google mobility data.
The city was hit harder than most areas by Covid-19 restrictions due to lockdown measures and travel restrictions, said Karl Chessell, CGA’s director of hospitality.
However, “changes in work patterns are going to be permanent for many, and this has led to a sustained impact in the center of the capital,” he added. “Many places have closed their doors during this period and it is not known if they will reopen.”
Some of the high-profile casualties on the Square Mile in the past two years include Kym’s, Michelin-starred chef Andrew Wong’s restaurant in the Bloomberg Arcade, Mark Hix’s Oyster and Chop House near Smithfield Market, and Tracks & Records Jamaican restaurant nearby. of Liverpool Street Station, which was endorsed by the athlete Usain Bolt.
But Graeme Smith, managing director of consultancy AlixPartners, said “given the catastrophic events of the last two years, the numbers have held up well.”
Many City businesses have adopted a three-day work week between Tuesday and Thursday. Monday is the day with the lowest pass in central London.
According to data provider Springboard, the average Monday footstep in July was down nearly 30 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Before the pandemic, the City typically drew 530,000 commuters every day.
“Ultimately, this has a lot to do with the changing nature and location of demand, and the food and beverage market will inevitably adjust to these changes, in the long run,” Smith added.
The City of London Corporation has invested £2.5 million in the arts and hospitality sectors in the area, and the district will host a number of outdoor festivals, music and other events throughout the autumn.
“We’ve seen the impact of the pandemic on major streets across the country,” said Chris Hayward, the corporation’s chief policy officer. He said the investment would “reimagine the city as a leading global destination for workers, visitors and residents.”