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Sadiq Khan joins call for central London business rates holiday extension

14 August 2020 by

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has joined the call to extend the business rates holiday for central London "to secure the West End's survival".

Khan has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson with eight proposals to combat the ‘perfect storm' of continued home working, restrictions on domestic and international tourism, and the requirement for continued social distancing, which continue to hit London businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry.

As well as an extension to the business rates holiday, which is due to end in March 2021, and an overhaul of that system, he has called for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for sectors including hospitality, a financial aid scheme for central London hospitality businesses, and more support for hospitality venues to implement track and trace systems.

The Mayor of London said he was doing "all within my powers to help" and called for "urgent and sustained support from government" to ensure central London businesses survive the "existential threat" of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said it was "reassuring" to have the support of the London Mayor, adding: "These sectors have been hammered by the crisis and they are going to be key to the economic recovery, not just of London, but the whole UK. Lots of businesses in our sector are beginning to reopen, but there are still many who cannot."

Some of London's most prominent restaurateurs wrote a letter to the Mayor last week urging him to champion London town. Written by St John restaurateur Trevor Gulliver and co-signed by Michel Roux Jr, Angela Hartnett, Margot Henderson and Yotam Ottolenghi, among others, it urged Khan to "shout out that we in town are organised" and "ready and waiting to entertain and delight", drop the congestion charge and push for confidence in the city's public transport.

Only around 50% of offices in London are reported to be planning a return to the workplace before the end of the year, a move which will continue to impact negatively on the sector, and revenues are still down by more than 80% despite July's reopening.

People working from home between March and June during lockdown cost the hospitality sector an estimated £2.3b of spending in shops, pubs and eateries near London employment hubs, and the capital is expected to continue to lose out on around £178m per month.

Meanwhile, impacted by the lack of both domestic and international travellers visiting the capital, London hotels continue to see the lowest occupancy in the country with an average of 25%, and some properties at just 10% or less.

While occupancy during weekends in London has recovered slightly, there has been no weekday improvement, with the lack of corporate and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) demand, continued closure of attractions and loss of tourism hitting the capital hard.

A significant number of properties remain closed and Jannes Soerensen, general manager of the five-AA-star, 73-bedroom Beaumont hotel in London's Mayfair, and chair of the W1 Group of 29 hotels, told The Caterer earlier this week: "It's just literally a matter of having enough clients that are able to travel to justify reopening."

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