When Saturday comes, Fitzrovia will limp back to life

On Saturday 4 July some of Fitzrovia’s hospitality traders will take a small, tentative step forward as pubs, cafes and restaurants open for the first time for more than three months, after the government eased Covid-19 restrictions.

A handwritten sign on the door of a pub in Fitzrovia welcomes punters back for 4 July.

Only a relatively small number will open on Saturday with more choosing to welcome customers in the coming weeks. All businesses will have to adhere to hygiene protocols and customers will be expected to follow advice when entering premises and may have to give their name and contact details or book in advance.

Hotels will also be able to welcome back guests. But with advice still in place to avoid public transport, and to “stay local”, central London is unlikely to see many visitors.

England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has warned the public to continue to adhere to social distancing rules: “If individuals, families and firms do not take them seriously the possibility of a second wave goes up sharply.” It that happens there will be a full lockdown again.

Dan Sandford of The Fitzrovia Partnership business group said it will be a difficult road to recovery for the neighbourhood’s cafes, restaurants and pubs.

“We hope that many of you will join us in welcoming them back tomorrow, but whatever your plans and wherever you are, we urge you all to remember that these businesses all have to operate in new ways in order to safely re-open.

“They will need allies and support. Things may take a little longer than we were used to pre-lockdown and their staff will be working hard to make sure safety is at the forefront of everything they do, so patience and kindness I am sure will go a long way,” said Sandford.

Sadly many premises will not open their doors again. Ryness Electrical in Goodge Street has a notice on the window saying it has closed permanently and the Co-op Food in Store Street is also closed. Many others including cafes and restaurants are expected never to open again.

Most of the thousands of office workers in the West End are expected to continue working from home for the rest of the summer with some firms planning for a return from September, and with them comes the vital customers for Fitzrovia’s food and drink venues.

While many places have been empty and quiet Fitzrovia News has had reports of illegal weekend parties in short-letting and AirBnb-style apartments. In Great Portland Street last Sunday there were 200 people at a party in an empty office building.

It will be a difficult summer in very uncertain times for a great number of people.