Wimbledon Councillor Makes Plea for Hospitality Industry

Paul Kohler owns a bar in central London anticipating disastrous weekend

Stephen Alambritis. Picture: Merton Council

October 23, 2020

A Central London bar owner is anticipating a ‘disastrous’ weekend ahead with Tier 2 restrictions in place.

It has been just one week since London went into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions banning the mixing of different households inside anywhere, including in bars and restaurants.

Paul Kohler, the owner of CellarDoor, a cabaret bar in the West End, said the 10pm curfew had already damaged his business and warns that many will close without support from the Government

Mr Kohler, who is also a Merton councillor, said: “It is a late night bar so the majority of our money is made after 10pm. It is a cabaret bar and they used to start at 9 or 9.30pm.

“It has made it difficult for the bar, but it also makes it difficult for people to come up to London if they are going to be kicked out at 10pm. Some will be worried about getting on very busy trains and buses at closing time.

“That said, we battled on and brought the acts earlier, we were just about holding our head above the water.”

Before reopening after the lockdown, CellarDoor spent thousands on social distancing measures at the bar, including plastic screens.

Mr Kohler said that when the 10pm curfew was introduced trade dropped by 50 per cent and dropped to 20 per cent when Tier 2 was put in place.

But now, since the introduction of Tier 2, the CellarDoor will open from Thursday to Saturday.

“Saturday [the first day of Tier 2] was terrible, it was totally quiet,” said the bar owner.

“People want to go out and drink with people other than the people they live with.

“We’ve got hardly any bookings for this weekend, we are expecting it will be a disaster.

“We’ve been arguing we should have stayed in Tier 1 or gone straight to Tier 3.”

Mr Kohler said that there is no support in place for businesses in Tier 2 areas, despite a drop in customers.

The Cellar Door in central London
The Cellar Door in central London

CellarDoor has been open since 2006 and has nine staff members.

“During the 80 per cent furlough we topped their wages up, but now unless something changes I’ll have to let them go, I feel terrible they are like family,” said Mr Kohler.

“I am worried that in Central London it will be death by 1,000 cuts.

“London hospitality has had a hard time, there is a lot of competition and the margins are fine.

“There needs to be more support. The tiers were not thought about, it was all reactive. I know it is difficult but we can see how other countries are managing it better.”

Earlier this month the CellarDoor joined businesses across the country in flashing their lights in the SOS pattern to protest against the curfew as part of the ‘keep the lights on’ campaign.

Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter