London's congestion charge is damaging the city's restaurant business, according to a major new survey.
Some 78% of restaurant operators questioned by the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC), whose properties are within or on the edge of the charging zone, said that their customer numbers had fallen since the charge was introduced in February 2003.
Almost 54% said that the £5-a-day charge was "all" or "mostly" to blame.
Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the LCC, said: "The decline in takings is disturbing because it comes at a time when the sector should have been emerging from the economic downturn in the early part of 2003.
"Clearly, restaurateurs across the capital believe that the congestion charge in its current form is making life difficult for their businesses. These findings will understandably alarm many business people who run restaurants in the proposed extension area in Kensington and Chelsea."
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) also hit out at the congestion charge. Chief executive Bob Cotton said: "This survey confirms what we have been saying to the mayor and the GLA [Greater London Authority]. Although the weak tourism market in the early part of the year has also affected restaurants, there is no doubt that restaurants suffered a drop in business following the imposition of the charge - particularly for lunchtime and pre-theatre meals."
Cotton highlighted the double whammy that restaurateurs had suffered, with trade declining while costs rose as suppliers passed on the £5 cost as a surcharge to deliveries.
Some 212 London restaurant businesses were surveyed.
- 74.5% of restaurants surveyed said that their takings were down.
- 80.7% said they had fewer customers at lunchtime.
- 74% said there were fewer customers in the early evening/ pre-theatre period.
- 20% said that they were considering closing their business as a direct result of the scheme.
- 79% said that they did not support the proposed extension of the existing congestion charging scheme.