Local small businesses are losing trade and suffering from disruptions to delivery schedules during the Olympics, according to business owners in the area.
EastLondonLines has learned that the Olympics opening ceremony on July 27 particularly affected night-time business in East London, such as restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas. Small businesses currently account for 99 per cent of all businesses in London.
Antonello Serra, a Chef at the Le Querce restaurant in Brockley, told ELL that he had seen a significant drop in the number of customers on Friday night. “Normally on Friday evenings we have around 60 to 70 customers,” he said. “Last Friday we had 15 people. I also go to a market in Stratford to buy food, and a butcher there told me that the local council had told him to close his business for the month. So he has no business at all.”
The Rio Cinema in Dalston, which had been showing the latest Batman film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, reported a 50 per cent drop in admissions on the night of the Olympics opening ceremony for the film in comparison to other days. “People must have been staying in,” said Marta Elliott, duty manager. “Whatever they were doing they weren’t watching the movie.” According to Elliott the cinema also had problems during the torch relay as it passed through Dalston, with people from the street bombarding the venue to use the toilet facilities.
Meanwhile in Croydon, the Roxbury nightclub was also adversely affected by the opening ceremony event. “To be honest, I knew that the whole Olympics thing would affect businesses and that it wouldn’t bring in the kind of business that they said it would,” said nightclub owner Gavin Carr. “The tourists are going to be concentrated in one area, so we haven’t seen any benefit. If Usain Bolt wins the 100 metres then we will have a very niche market to cater for, and we will try to get them to come down to the club.”
Nearer to the Olympic Games in Whitechapel, the double impact of Ramadan and the Olympics has caused problems for the Zaza Cafe on New Road. Shahid Saif said: “There isn’t anybody on Whitechapel Road. No one is walking around. There are no new customers. I guess people are going to the stadium and then back to their hotel by car. It is dead quiet.”
Transport restrictions imposed by TfL have also caused disruptions to delivery schedules. The Le Querce restaurant said that it had to “completely change” its delivery times because of the transport rules imposed by the government on the roads during the Olympics. Saif at the Zaza Cafe said: “The delivery companies said that they would need to do night time deliveries. Now they have told us that they will deliver early in the morning. It’s been ok though.” The Rio Cinema said that it was not having many issues with deliveries, although they had been “dreading it”.
The Federation of Small Businesses, the UK’s leading business organisation with around 200,000 members and 7000 businesses in London, said that it is “very concerned about the ‘ghost town’ effect seen since the Olympics”. Stuart Emmerson of the FSB told EastLondonLines that whilst they were fully backing the Games as a showcase for business investment in London, they had been receiving “disappointing feedback” from their members on the ground, saying that trade had “dropped” and “hasn’t been as expected”.
Businesses in the centre of London, particularly those in Covent Garden and Soho have reported trade down as much as 50 per cent, with many blaming TfL’s warnings about staying out of London during the Games.
Emmerson said that previous Olympic cities such as Barcelona, Athens and Beijing had typically seen a drop in visitors of around 35 per cent. However, he said that the situation was being exacerbated by street signs around London telling people to avoid certain areas for the entire Olympics period. He also noted that official stewards at tube stations seemed to be directing people straight to the Olympic stadium. “It would be helpful if tourists could dwell in the area to give a greater footfall to local shops,” he said.
According to Emmerson, parking restrictions have also been causing problems for small businesses. “Parking officers should not be overzealous during this challenging time,” he said.
The FSB says that small businesses should log-on to Crowdmap https://fsbuk.crowdmap.com/ to put their business on the map. They can also tweet using the hashtag #open4biz to indicate if they are open and to discuss the impact of the Games.