Londoner’s Diary: French House in plea to keep Soho’s ‘Costa del Dean Street’

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Outdoor seating areas in Soho (Getty Images)
Outdoor seating areas in Soho (Getty Images)

Welcome back to the final Londoner’s Diary of the week. First up we hear from the owner of Soho institution The French House and other businesses, who along with other businesses are urging Westminster City Council to extend “al fresco” pedestrianisation brought during the pandemic. Later today we learn volunteers are repainting the Covid memorial wall and hope to turn it into something more permanent and Shon Faye explains why she refused to write a memoir. In SW1A, the US trade deal team are now working on the gulf, and Sir Iain Duncan Smith hits back after shortages at Westminster’ Greggs are blamed on Brexit.

‘I don’t know what’s going to happen when the rug is swept out from under us'

10:55 , Robbie Griffiths

The owner of Soho institution The French House has joined other local businesses in urging Westminster City Council to extend an “alfresco” pedestrianisation which has rejuvenated the area during the pandemic.

“We were on the verge of bankruptcy,” Lesley Lewis told The Londoner yesterday. “This saved us, by having these 10 tables and 30 chairs.”

Lewis, who has owned the French House for more than three decades, said the “Costa del Dean Street” had created a “lovely continental feel”. The council has told businesses to end their al fresco arrangements on September 30, citing the views of residents. Consultations about extensions are ongoing.

Francesco Delfino, bar manager of Mimi’s Hotel, said Soho residents know it is a noisy area, and that outdoor seats helped everyone: “If you can sit more people, you need more staff.”

Laura Smith, co-owner of Flat White in Berwick Street, said she’d be uncomfortable with opening indoors during a winter Covid wave: “I don’t know what’s going to happen when the rug is swept out from under us.”

15:08 , Robbie Griffiths

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

Presenter Nick Grimshaw supported Love Island’s Mollie-Mae Hague as she launched her Pretty Little Thing fashion collection at Novikov in Mayfair last night.

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

Fellow islander Maura Higgins and musicians Headie One and Krept and Konan enjoyed DJ Nadia Jae (Grimshaw got on the decks too), while Mollie impressively fitted in socialising between at least one outfit change.

SW1A

15:04 , Robbie Griffiths

THE special relationship isn’t only on the rocks over Afghanistan. The Londoner hears civil servants once working on a US trade deal have been quietly moved to work with the Gulf States. The Government tells us: “It’s not unusual for UK negotiators to work on multiple priorities.” Seems we are at the back of the queue.

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TRUCK driver shortages are hitting politicos where it hurts: the Westminster branch of Greggs, where most pastries ran out yesterday. Industry groups have said Brexit is partly to blame, but Iain Duncan Smith disagrees, telling us: “It is much more to do with Covid and an over-reliance on imported drivers.” Perhaps he could retrain?

Painters repair Covid wall hearts

12:21 , Robbie Griffiths

Covid memorial wall (Getty Images)
Covid memorial wall (Getty Images)

The Covid memorial wall opposite Parliament is being repainted by volunteers after some of the 130,000 red hearts commemorating lives lost so far during the pandemic faded following rain. Action group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice plan to make the wall permanent using Perspex or gloss, with support from Lambeth council and MPs. They are also pressing for haste with an inquiry into the Government’s response to the pandemic, which is set to start next spring. However they claim civil servants have not yet been asked for evidence.

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