Soho's Milk & Honey 'killed off' by curfew

28 September 2020 by
Soho's Milk & Honey 'killed off' by curfew

Milk & Honey owner Jonathan Downey has said he had "no choice" but to shut down the Soho bar after the 10pm curfew came into force last week.

Downey, who is also chief executive of Hospitality Union and London Union, told The Caterer they had already been having "real difficulties" with their landlord after trade had been decimated during lockdown. However, any hope of renegotiating an interim rent deal for the next six months, followed by a new 15-year lease, had been destroyed by the curfew.

"Curfew has killed us. We were doing about 60% of normal sales post-lockdown and curfew has now chopped a third of that off. It's now no longer viable as a business."

He said the government had "completely messed up" by introducing the curfew, and added: "It's whether they've got the guts to do a U-turn, that's the issue."

"We're not generating any cash to pay any rent so there's no way we can agree a deal with the landlord. Had we been taking money we could have agreed a deal – I could have said we'll pay 75% of the rent for six months and off we go again.

"But to reopen under new curfew rules we'd be losing money. It's just not sustainable. That's another late licence lost in Soho."

He said that that the staff would be let go and would now have to find other work: "I really feel for the guys who work there. There was a great team there. They have been meticulous in their attention to detail, they are naturals at hospitality and effortless at customer service. Just a brilliant team."

"Saturday was our last night – we're done, done, done."

Milk & Honey first opened on Poland Street in 2002 and operated 6pm-3am six nights a week. It became a popular destination in Soho for both members and non-members seeking cocktails across a range of intimate booths, counters and lounges over three floors.

Reactions on social media have flooded in from regulars lamenting the bar's closure. One regular posted on Twitter: "It was a one of the few truly ground-breaking institutions where tending the bar, making cocktails was seen as a truly highly skilled profession."

Downey said he would continue to have access to the site until the end of the year and would use the time to "clear the place out and take some mementos".

He added: "Maybe we'll pop up somewhere else."

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