Without business interruption insurance payments Covid-19's impact on the capital's hospitality scene will be "absolutely devastating", the founder and chief executive of Hide restaurant has said.
Tatiana Fokina, founder and chief executive of both Hedonism Wines and the Michelin-starred Hide restaurant in London's Piccadilly, said the businesses contacted their insurer on 17 March when they realised the level of disruption Covid-19 was likely to bring.
Having held a policy with the same insurer for eight years and paying in excess of £300,000 annually to cover the two businesses, it received no response for more than a month and a half, until, eventually, the insurer said it would not be making a payment.
Fokina described the time taken to respond as "shocking". She added: "We had at least expected a fairly immediate answer on where we stood, because at the time no one really knew what would happen or how much help we would get from the government and we had to try and plan ahead and make decisions quickly."
Hide and Hedonism Wines have instructed lawyers to appeal the insurer's decision, which hinges on Covid-19 not having been named within the policy. Fokina said the policy also included a clause regarding the closure of the sites by officials, however the insurer is claiming the current circumstances would not fall into the scope of this.
Fokina has said the situation will need to be resolved to allow the hospitality to emerge from this crisis. She explained: "As a business we will survive because we have Hedonism Wines and online sales that are doing OK in the circumstances, so we can rely on that side of the business to help pay the rent for Hide.
"For smaller businesses, though, this will be absolutely devastating and I think we're looking at a huge number of hospitality businesses not being able to open again if the lockdown continues and they don't get their business interruption insurance money."
Fokina said agreements have been reached with the landlords of both Hedonism Wines and Hide, which is currently operating a Hide@Home takeaway service, but added that even operators who have been able to negotiate reliefs or extra finance will need to bear in mind that money will need to be repaid and that higher taxes can be expected in future. This, she said, why it's so important for insurers to be held into account, praising the initiatives being taken across hospitality.
She added: "Hospitality is a very tightly knit industry and everyone looks out for each other, all our staff are very friendly with other restaurants. The industry creates one in 10 jobs in the UK. We're not just thinking about us – I can't imagine the West End without buzzy restaurants and people queueing outside, it's such a big part of London's DNA.
"We're trying to do as many things as we can to make people aware of how the industry has suffered – this is the time where we have to have a unified voice."
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