Special report

'We will not be defeated by terrorism' – Borough Market set to reopen

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Terrorism

London Bridge, for the moment, has become an eerie, quiet place. Yes, people still walk around laughing and taking pictures, but there is a strong melancholic undertone as everyday business continues.

Police officers, their vehicles, boats and helicopters are always within sight, especially of the mourners paying tribute to the victims of this month’s terror attack on the capital, who lay flowers on the ground and Sellotape notes of condolence to a wall next to the now infamous bridge.

On Saturday 3 June, at around 10pm, innocent bystanders were cruelly mowed down by three men in a white van. They later led a cowardly knife attack​ around Borough Market, which was packed with revellers enjoying themselves on a warm evening. Seven people were killed and 48 wounded.

At the time of publication, the main scene of the knife attacks – also where the three terrorists were gunned down by police – remained blocked off. However, the area is set to open fully today (14 June).

Even before the market reopened, there was a massive amount of belief that normality would return to the area.

Venues such as the Slug & Lettuce – just outside the main market – were filled with chattering customers, eating and drinking, less than a week after the incident. However, any loud noise, such as a waitress dropping a tray, was met with an uncharacteristic sharp intake of breath and silence, before the hum of enjoyment continued.

Oliver Sweetman is the area manager of 15 Slug & Lettuce sites in central London and was in the area at the time of the attacks. He is adamant full normality will resume, but when that will happen, neither he nor anyone else willing to speak about the incident knows.

Somewhere in the darkness of what happened there are bright beams of hope, formed by the actions of heroic hospitality staff who put their own lives at risk​ to protect their customers and colleagues. For Sweetman, his London Bridge team was gallant in the face of danger.

First instinct

“I was really proud of the response, it’s quite a young team, but they were so professional,” exults Sweetman. “Their first instinct was to look after the rest of the team, customers and to make sure everyone was catered for. There was a lot of care and compassion and understanding of the situation and I’m very proud of them.”

Now, though, the difficulties of moving forward from the attack have to be considered. Nevertheless, London Bridge is a tight-knit community and everyone is coming together to help one another “because we don’t want anyone to fail”, says the area manager.

Sweetman is also confident enough to assert the terrorists will “never get what they want” and adds: “We’re about society and community, and our job is to make sure we club together and look after each other and that’s already showing.

“There’s a lot of pride that we are from London Bridge and they (the terrorists) won’t defeat us. They will never destroy us.”

At least 16 pubs surround the attack zone

Co-founder of London-based Inception Group Charlie Gilkes is spearheading a mass movement of people into the area to support those businesses that had to remain closed during the police investigations. He is doing this foremost to show the terrorists will never defeat the UK’s night-time economy, but also because he fears those businesses in the area that was blocked off may suffer from a lack of trade.

“We’re all very sickened by the awful attacks in Borough and we all felt they could have been our staff and customers. But there is also a feeling of resilience in London and I’m very keen that the venues continue to be busy because I would hate the thought of the venues suffering from a dip in trade,” he tells The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​).

“Having seen these awful attacks, the last thing that I would want to see is these businesses suffer even further from a dip in trade, so we’re really keen that people continue to go and they drink and eat as normal. For one reason, if they don’t, these criminals have won if they change how we go about our everyday life.”

He adds: “A lot of these operators in Borough are independent and the lack of revenue from being closed could kill them and they have been through enough to suffer further.”

More vigilance from operators is needed now the UK has experienced its third terror attack in four months, and further incidents will be difficult to stop, laments Gilkes. However, he highlights the amazing stories of unbelievable pub staff bravery, such as those working at the Wheatsheaf who barricaded customers​ in for their safety.

Heart of food and drink

An attack on London’s beating food and drink heart is an attack on the whole of the UK’s night-time economy, but London Bridge businesses are getting back on their feet. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) launched a campaign to raise £2,000 to buy first responders a drink​ to thank them and to get people back in the area.

The impact of lost trade, both on the evening of the incident and the following week, is worrying says ALMR director of communications Tony Sophoclides. Despite the financial and emotional difficulties following the terror attack, the trade must move on and regain confidence and strength, he adds.

“On a trade level, one has to remind one’s self that it’s statistically incredibly unlikely to happen in the first place, let alone again,” he encourages.

While the odds of something similar happening again may offer some respite and hope to UK operators and the public, Sophoclides urges the industry to gain information on how to ramp up their security protocols.

Such advice can be sought from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office’s new Crowded Places Guidance​, created specifically for UK pubs and bars.

Tips include ensuring those in charge of an establishment act quickly and decisively, ascertaining whether they need to evacuate staff and customers from their site or barricade themselves in, such as during the recent attacks.

Only time will tell whether real normality will resume any time soon, but on-trade businesses in the area need not look far for support, as their fellow operators and the public are prepared to wade in and help now the cordons and barriers have been removed.

Related news

Show more