G-A-Y owner criticises Government as Soho bar begins serving McDonald’s
The owner of G-A-Y has attacked the Government’s “ridiculous” tier system after the famous London venue was forced to reinvent itself with table service and food from McDonald’s.
Jeremy Joseph told the PA news agency the Government had “discriminated against wet-led venues” in its rules to tackle coronavirus and claimed ministers had also “f****d up” by failing to give clear guidance.
In order to reopen under London’s Tier 2 restrictions, the brand’s popular Old Compton Street bar worked with a number of nearby restaurants – including McDonald’s – to offer a table service menu.
The change, along with the introduction of masks and social distancing, means the experience at one of London’s most renowned venues is a long way from the usual mix of dancing and glitter.
However, G-A-Y nightclub by Manchester’s Canal Street remains closed due to Tier 3 restrictions.
Meanwhile, Mr Joseph’s other London venue, Heaven – which has hosted the likes of Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue – is due to reopen this weekend despite uncertainty over what guidance it needs to follow.
Usually a club and live music venue, Heaven is set to show musical theatre from Saturday instead. However, management are still waiting to hear if they can work within theatre rules – which permit the sale of alcohol without food.
“The Government haven’t really thought about this at all,” Mr Joseph said.
“They are so out of touch. The problem is they haven’t ever had a conversation with hospitality.”
“It’s all very well saying you’ve got to serve food. But that’s not what we do. Do they want me to suddenly open a kitchen and start cooking when I have no idea about food hygiene?” he said.
“The reason we teamed up with other restaurants is because that’s what they do for a living.”
Since taking over in the 1990s, Mr Joseph has overseen the transformation of G-A-Y from a popular club night to a multi-venue brand.
However, his frustration at the Government’s handling of coronavirus prompted him to launch a legal challenge in October over its 10pm curfew on hospitality, which was refused.
The Government has now relaxed the curfew to 11pm.
The curfew, social distancing rules and lower footfall in city centres will mean takings in those venues that are able to open are still well down on normal years, and that after several months of no income at all due to lockdowns.
He believes that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has missed a chance to keep many more businesses alive by failing to address the costs businesses face on rents.
“One of the reasons Debenhams and Topshop have gone under is that they couldn’t afford the rent.
“Their biggest cost of keeping going was rent … rent for G-A-Y Bar in Old Compton Street is £127,000 every three months. So god knows what Topshop is.
“If you’ve got zero income … that’s the thing Rishi has avoided the whole way through,” Mr Joseph said.
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