Jonathan Downey: “We’ve been completely screwed over. But we’ll be back”

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Jonathan Downey: “We’ve been completely screwed over. But we’ll be back” Street Feast Coronavirus liquidation

Related tags: Jonathan Downey, Street food, Coronavirus, liquidation

Street Feast founder Jonathan Downey has vowed to bring the company back following its collapse last year.

Speaking to the Evening Standard​, Downey said the business would return after being 'completely screwed over' during the pandemic.

Downey revealed in October last year​ that he had instructed restructuring advisor Resolve to liquidate the company that ran his four street food businesses, which included Dinerama in Shoreditch; Hawker House in Canada Water; Giant Robot in Canary Wharf; and Model Market in Lewisham.

At the time he said the 'calamitous, misguided leadership' of the Government during the Covid crisis had meant there was no business left to save.

According to the liquidator’s report, published last week, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Heston Blumenthal were among 300 investors in the venture, with other backers including Yotam Ottolenghi, Gizzi Erskine, Russell Norman, and food critic Marina O’Loughlin.

Downey told the Evening Standard ​that the majority of investors backed the company through the Government’s start-up accelerator the Enterprise Investment Scheme, with much of the outlay covered by tax relief and failure protection.

He said: “A lot of our backers were already rich and successful and weren’t investing for financial gain but were giving us their support as we tried to create something great for London.

“Sadly because of Covid that didn’t happen, but nobody’s going to get burned."

The majority of Street Feast's sites now back in the hands of their landlords. Dinerama's space has subsequently been acquired by Beach Blanket Babylon founder Robert Newmark, who is set to reopen the site as LALALAND - billed as a ‘lush garden of food, drink and rendezvous set in the urban scape of East London’ - this year.

Meanwhile, The Incipio Group is turning Giant Robot into a City version of its Pergola restaurant concept.

Downey told the Evening Standard ​that he lost eight years of his life and a paper fortune pegged at £25m from the collapse but nevertheless intends to revive the concept once the threat of further lockdowns has fully lifted.

Papers filed to Companies House show the company, since renamed 100 Clifton, crashed with debts of around £2.1m including unpaid salaries, rents and tax, with cash in the bank of £52,000.

 “The business was killed because of the lockdowns and government restrictions. We also had some very difficult landlords.

“Some of them have now brought in new operators, a bit like a cuckoo taking over someone else’s nest.”

He added: “Dinerama was a car park. It was 12,000sq ft of concrete. We got a licence, planning permission, spent a million pounds building that site... then some other company gets to take it over because we can no longer operate due to Covid restrictions.

“We’ve been completely screwed over. But we’ll be back.”

Downey, who founded Street Feast in 2012, was instrumental in calling for the introduction of the rent lease forfeiture moratorium​ and subsequently founded the Hospitality Union action group to deal with the massive disruption to the industry caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

His iconic Soho bar Milk & Honey, which he ran for 18 years, also closed​ last year.

Related topics: Street Food

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