London 2012 Olympics: Pubs in central London suffer as West End becomes "ghost town"

By Adam Pescod

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Central london, West end, Olympic games, Summer olympic games

Disaster: CAMRA's Pub of the Year 2011, the Harp in Covent Garden, has seen a 20% drop-off in trade since the Olympics started
Disaster: CAMRA's Pub of the Year 2011, the Harp in Covent Garden, has seen a 20% drop-off in trade since the Olympics started
Pubs in central London have been hit by a significant drop in trade as the West End has turned into a “ghost town” since the start of the Olympics last Friday.

It was hoped that London pubs would see a sales boost as a result of the Games but that has not proven to be the case for a number of venues at the heart of the city.

CAMRA’s Pub of the Year 2011, the Harp in Covent Garden, has seen an estimated 20% downturn in trade since the start of the Games.
“It is desperate,” said the pub’s owner Bridget Walsh. “I would say we are probably 20% down compared to a usual week.”

Asked why she thought this was, Walsh responded: “It is very simply because people are being told not to come to London. They are worried about driving in because of the traffic being gridlocked, or frightened that the trains and buses are going to be running properly.

“It is a disaster for the Government and the Treasury, and for me. I had to cancel all staff holidays (for the Olympics). I was concerned it was going to be too busy but it has gone the other way completely.”

Meanwhile, founder of the Bavarian Beerhouse, Sabine von Reth, told the PMA that the Old Street site had seen a 50% drop in sales since the start of the Games.

"Looking around Tower Hill, the streets are empty," said von Reth.

“I can’t wait to see the back of the Olympics,” added Christine Bateman, manager of Mitchells & Butlers pub the Argyll Arms at Oxford Circus.

“It is absolutely shocking. There is nobody about - it is like a ghost town. I didn’t think that my trade would go up a lot, I thought it would stay the same as people have still got to eat and drink after they have been to the events - but that has not been the case.

“I think if people are out in Stratford they are basically staying out there and heading straight home afterwards, whereas the normal tourists are staying away because they think it is going to be chaos.”

“Friday and Saturday were a lot quieter than usual,” said Dave McLelland, manager of Samuel Smiths’ pub the Princess Louise in Holborn. McLelland said that although trade has been normal so far this week, he was expecting to be busier as a result of the Olympics.

“It is disappointing - I would have thought there would be more people in the area who were not going to the events coming into central London to see the shows and the tourist attractions.”

Finally, Glendola Leisure which has a number of venues in central London also reported a dip in trade with average figures down for the week.

A spokesperson said: “Our London units, including the including Rainforest Cafe did not see any benefit at all from the Olympics over the first weekend (or even last week) and the general consensus is that our regular customers are generally staying away from the West End and Olympic tickets holders are going straight to the venues.

“This should be the busiest time for Rainforest Cafe especially with the school holidays underway. However we are seeing far lower than average figures.

“Waxy O’Connor’s on Rupert Street has seen a similar downturn in business and we are hoping that Tuesday night’s news coverage on the BBC and in the Evening Standard will get the message across to Londoners that the city isn’t as busy as they may think and will hopefully start to come out to our bars and restaurants again.”

Strategic affairs director for the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, Kate Nicholls, said: “There is no doubt that operators in central London are seeing the Olympic effect – and it is not always positive.

"Those tourists who are in London are at the Olympic venues and outlets close by are undoubtedly getting a boost – I was in Kingston for the cycling time trials yesterday and the pubs beside the route were busy and making the most of it – but for food-led businesses in the heart of the West End, that is not sufficient to compensate for the drop in normal trade and commuter footfall and normal tourist business is definitely down.

"The weather is also undoubtedly contributing to that and so far, all the signs are that there is a London vs rest of the country divide. Pubs remain a great place to get the atmosphere of a live sport event and many people are choosing their local to be a part of the national celebrations.”

Sign up to our daily alert for pub trade Olympics news​ and Janet Dooner's - licensee of the Railway Tavern in Stratford - Olympic diary.

Related topics: Sport

Property of the week

The Hazeldene Hotel

- Tenancy

The Hazeldene Hotel is opposite the Famous Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna Green. With 11 letting rooms, it is in a prime location to offer fantastic...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more