Jinli shut its flagship Central Cross location for six weeks yesterday (9 March) due to ‘internal maintenance’, despite only opening in February last year; and Leicester Street stalwart Joy King Lau has closed citing ‘renovations’.
Normally one of Gerrard Street’s busiest restaurants, Four Seasons was closed on 1 March until early April for ‘renovation’; although its Little Four Seasons site – also on Gerrard Street – and sister restaurant on nearby Wardour Street continue to trade.
BigHospitality has been told anecdotally that Joy King Lau’s decision to close was motivated by a downturn in sales caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Martin Ma, general manager for Jinli, has been quoted as saying the restaurant was losing £15,000 a week as recently as yesterday.
Baozilnn has also taken the decision to close its recently opened Chinatown Two site on Little Newport Street for a kitchen refurbishment. According to a spokesperson for the group, the renovation was originally scheduled for much later in the year, but has been brought forward in light of the ongoing sales downturn.
Though the cost of closing a restaurant in a prime area of London is extremely high, it’s a better option than operating a nearly empty restaurant while having to pay staff, buy ingredients that may not be sold, and pay for utilities.
The devastating effect of the Coronavirus outbreak has been felt across the hospitality sector in recent weeks.
Last month Baozilnn told BigHospitality that it had seen a 40% drop in sales across its two Chinatown sites, citing the fall in Chinese tourists visiting the capital and the decline of western customers visiting the area; while last week chef restaurateur Adam Handling was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying the numbers at his Covent Garden flagship Frog had “been the worst in two years”.
Today it’s been reported that UKHospitality has written a letter urging the Government to implement measures to help support businesses within the industry threatened by the outbreak. Those measures include a moratorium on business rates for a minimum of three months, extendable dependent on the extent of virus spread; and cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism, to incentivise bookings.
According to the trade body, hotel occupancy has fallen 15%, while eating and drinking out has declined by 7% as a result of the Coronavirus.
It has also warned that forward bookings across hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars have fallen by up to 50%.