Outrage over Khan’s Policy Driving Curry Houses Out of Central London
Curry Life Exclusive At Curry Life we take pride in our political neutrality, after all we only have one obligation and goal – to support and inform our colleagues in the UK Curry Industry who make up our readership and wider hospitality sector.
This often puts us in a position where we need to assess the actions of elected officials when such actions have an impact on those who we represents such as Curry Houses and other cuisine sector with our exclusive trade magazines. We offer our analysis based on the evidence available with absolute impartiality, offering no allegiance to any political party or elected individual. We are prepared to criticise when we feel it’s appropriate as well as offering praise where it’s due. For example, we criticised the government’s early handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent article – we believe they were too slow to respond and since Brexit have an engrained aversion to expert advice. We were also critical of the government’s treatment of the curry industry during this crisis; this is evident from our recent interview with Small Business Minister Mr Paul Scully MP. However, we also welcomed a large portion of the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s summer statement. We are ardent supporters of Eat Out to Help Out, the cut in VAT, changes to licensing laws and various other measures the Government has recently put into place. We make the above point to stress our neutrality because it has become necessary for us to address the actions of another elected official, this time one representing the Labour Party as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Our magazine has reached out to Mr Khan on multiple occasions to discuss the issues related curry industry and requested to engage with Curry Houses but had no positive response. This leaves us little choice but to provide this information to our readers without his input – so they can make up their own minds. During Mr Khan’s mayoral race and prior to his successful election, Mr Khan attended our flagship annual event Curry Life Awards in London in 2015. Despite not being on the guest list, we welcomed Mr Khan and even provided him a podium to speak to those assembled. Many of which were small business owners from the city or people of influence from our Curry Industry. Due to Mr Khan’s background and track record we felt this was the right thing to do. We also felt he could indeed be the man to help our industry thrive going forward, so we were more than happy to accommodate him. Mr Khan promised that if he is elected Mayor of London he would be the most “Pro Curry and Pro Business Mayor of London the city has ever known.”
However, since being elected Mayor of London, this has not been the case for last 4 years. The curry industry was not expecting special treatment of course, but we were hoping Mr Khan would become its advocate. Sadly, he has shown little interest in becoming the most “Pro Curry and Pro Business Mayor of London”. In fact, since taking advantage of our hospitality to make this promise, Mr Khan hasn’t accepted to any of our invitations to attend subsequent Curry Life Awards ceremonies in London, a gathering of national importance for British Bangladeshi Community who is connected with Curry Houses. Over the years many senior cabinet ministers, MPs representing their own constituency Curry Houses, have attended this national annual celebration of British Curry Houses. Curry Life was also delighted to be the host for Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP and Sir Keir Starmer MP from Mr Khan’s own party.
“Politicians are known to not keep manifesto promises they make in public, but we in Curry Life feel especially aggrieved by this situation. Mr Khan could have become an advocate for our curry industry in London if he had wanted to. We believe Khan has chosen to go back on this promise. What’s worse, he may never have planned to keep it. But in not doing so we feel he has behaved in a dishonest and manipulative manner, misleading the people he encouraged to put their faith on him that evening. Many would have voted for him based on this appearance. Quite simply, it is a betrayal but one that has been made worse by Mr Khan’s actions (and lack of) since taking office,” said, Syed Pasha editor in chief of Curry Life. Curry Life appreciates that many organisations, including TFL, are facing funding difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally this has led to difficult decisions being made, many of which would not have been made if it weren’t for this virus. One of these is the Congestion Charge in the City of London. Curry Life Magazine supports any initiative to reduce congestion in the city, for many reasons, however this charge is doing tremendous damage to our restaurant industry.
“To be more precise, maintaining this charge after 6pm is what’s causing the problems. This is the time when many people go out to dinner in a restaurant. Many people are struggling as it is financially due to corona virus and this added charge makes that worse. Not only that, it deters people from eating out which puts an even bigger strain on the hospitality sector. An industry, which already has enough problems in the wake of this virus.” To kick start recover in London, it needs to attract customers. The Congestion Charge applying after 6pm – every day of the week including weekends – is discouraging people from supporting restaurants in the city of London; as doing so is too expensive. This is especially important in the month of August 2020, where people are keen to take advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. It’s a crucial time to stimulate the industry’s recovery. We believe the Mayor of London should be doing more to help the hospitality sector, not creating more obstacles for it to overcome. Small business accounts for a significant proportion of the London’s economy, as well as a significant portion of our readership. Many of which have reached out to Curry Life asking us to approach the Mayor about this very issue. Restaurant owners in London feel abandoned and at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the country. Many of them have been deprived of government grants, because their rateable value doesn’t meet the criteria. The Congestion Charge isn’t even the only issue small business owners in London have approached Curry Life to challenge the Mayor of London about. As a result, we have offered to be a platform of mediation and to facilitate a dialogue between Curry Houses and the Mayor. We have been making this offer to the Mayor’s office since 2016 and have received no positive response. The editor of Curry Life wrote to Mr Khan one final time on the end of July 2020 to make him aware this article would be produced – and to make the above offer of engagement and dialogue with Curry Houses one more time. Once again, we received no reply from Mr Khan or his team. Curry Life Magazine and its readers are not the only ones challenging Mr Khan on this issue. FairFuelUK and the Alliance of British Drivers have challenged the Mayor on legal grounds and are ready to take the complaint to the High Court. Even popular restaurant owners such as Atul Kochhar, Angela Hartnett, Michel Roux Jr and Yotam Ottolenghi have signed an open letter asking the Mayor to do more to support the hospitality industry. Mr Mohammad Gazi who owns two restaurants in the centre of London, one in Piccadilly and another in Kings Cross, both called Chilli Shaker has also struggled with the congestion charge. “It’s no good ending the charge at 10pm” he says, “People go out to eat around 6pm”. “We need to be welcoming people back not punishing them for coming. People are going to just go elsewhere and restaurants in the centre of London are suffering.” He also argues that restaurants in the centre of London already pay extremely high rates and rents. Also, that many of them didn’t qualify for help from the Government, making their situation even direr. “Our restaurants are open again, we normally can comfortably seat 60 people, but with social distancing are prepared for 30. However, nobody is coming.” Mr Syed Khan owner of Shapur Restaurant at the Strand, Central London said: “This change to congestion charging has put the nail in the coffin for already dying businesses in the city. Why would I bother paying this money to come into the centre of London if I don’t need to? The city is totally dead, it’s like a ghost town and no body coming to the City of London, which is our important part in our economy. We’re not doing enough business to sustain.” He went on to say that his restaurant is now in serious risk unless help or support comes soon, “We can’t go on like this for another few months. The answer is to support us, this is making me depressed despite being in the Curry Business for almost 40 years and I know I’m not the only one.” Councillor Parvez Ahmed, who has been associated with catering trade for decades and a Labour Councillor in Brent, said: “It’s essential that the Mayor of London continues to and if anything, in the current climate, increases engagement with local communities including the Bangladeshi community, as well as business communities such as the Curry Industry. With lots of individuals and businesses facing difficult times and hardship, the role of elected representatives becomes even more important, and so I’d encourage further engagement.” The editor of Curry Life, Syed Ahmed, said: “We are now at the stage where we would like to address the Mayor of London directly. Mr Khan, our offer is still open to you. As the mayor of London, you have an obligation to restaurants and other small business owners. You could play a vital part in their recovery and help a lot of families keep their businesses open and a great deal more in employment. “It is within your power to reach out and help them, or at least listen to what they say. It is not too late to become the advocate the curry industry needs – and to keep the promise you made at our event. We can solve these problems if we all work together,” he added. Those who wish to watch Sadiq Khan making promises to be the most “Pro Curry and Pro Business Mayor of London the city has ever known,” please click on the link below: https://youtu.be/5VIZymvHX7M