Protests are nothing new for the pubs surrounding Trafalgar Square and it was business as usual for them even as hundreds of climate change activists were camped out in the central London area.
The Metropolitan Police ordered a ban on the group's protests on Monday evening (14 October 2019) and had made 1,457 arrests in connection with environmental group Extinction Rebellion's ‘October Rising’.
Roads in Westminster have been closed or partially blocked because of the large numbers of police and protesters on the streets.
Extinction Rebellion has been urging the Government to declare a climate emergency and to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a net zero by 2025 through methods of direction action including a nine-day occupation of Trafalgar Square.
Fuller's retail director Fred Turner explained the company had used additional door staff at its pubs in the area, including the Admiralty and the Harp sites, but beyond that, it had been nothing that new for its sites.
He added: “The biggest issue is people wanting to use the pub as a public convenience – which as most of our pubs are in old buildings, with toilets designed just for customer use, can be a massive issue.
“When it’s the odd tourist, of course, we would allow them to use the loo, but when it’s hundreds of people, often driven by the fact the local authorities have a tendency to close the public facilities in these situations, the pubs just can’t cope.
“On a positive note, we have seen a big rise in customers wanting vegan and vegetarian breakfasts – which we’ve been delighted to accommodate.”
Out of the ordinary
The Marquis pub, located opposite Charing Cross police station, did not have a food delivery for eight days and almost missed a beer delivery owing to the road closures.
However, bar manager Tommy McGuinness said the extra footfall was nothing the pub could not handle and he did not think takings had been affected, despite some “out of the ordinary” incidents.
He explained: “We had to borrow food from our sister pubs, it was fine, we were out of particular products – for instance the steak in our pies – for two days, which is a big seller.
“We have struggled that way a little bit, but it's not been anything we couldn't recover, or have other options, for.
“We have not had any trouble with [climate change activists] directly, though they kept using the toilets quite a lot, which are only open for customers. We've been OK with it. They've been lovely to be fair, every single one of them.”
Several demonstrators used the pub's alleyway to sleep during the wet weather and ‘meat is murdering the planet’ was spray painted on the wall there (pictured), which McGuinness described as “a shame”.
The pub had one cancelled booking where customers cited the demonstrations as their reason.
McGuinness said: “They chose not to come into town. It was only a small table of four people that had hired out a table in the restaurant.
“They called to cancel off the back of this, whether it's travel issues or they didn't want to come in when it was all going on.”
Not a new experience
It was also hard to quantify the impact of the demonstrations on Fuller’s sales.
Turner said: “The protest has bought many customers into the area – but it has also made it difficult for non-participating customers to get through.
“It’s therefore difficult to measure any impact as there are still other factors that also come into play. For instance, at the Admiralty, we are an NFL hub, which has generated a lot of additional custom.
“Protests in Westminster are a weekly, and sometimes daily, occurrence so while Extinction Rebellion is quite sizeable and has been more prominent, it’s not a new experience for our pubs in the Westminster area.
“We have very good and regular liaison with the police and they provide a good flow of information.”