'People are scared to come out', say Hampstead coffee shops

Rinku Sushanth and colleagues at New York Café in Hampstead. 

Rinku Sushanth and colleagues at New York Café in Hampstead. - Credit: Poppy Koronka

Takeaway hot drinks are keeping Hampstead's coffee shops ticking over, business owners told the Ham&High amid discussion about tougher rules putting a stop to carry-out food and drink.

The Labour Party has been among those calling for restrictions on takeaways, a measure already in place in Scotland. 

Rinku Sushanth of New York Café said the family-run business is only making 5% of its previous daily takings, and she felt curbs on takeaways would put its future under threat.

She said: “This particular lockdown feels really impactful. We can really feel the difference. Footfall feels amazingly low.” 

Behind the scenes at New York Café, which opened in 2019, Rinku has two extra staff at the moment: Her young children, who are being very well-behaved, she said, but are often busy doing homework in the back room while mum works.

When asked whether a walk with a coffee and a friend counts as "essential" exercise, Rinku said:  “I think it’s individual responsibility. If they made an effort to come out and buy coffee just to take a walk - it doesn’t really harm anyone.

“But if you’re having a group of friends with you […] you have to keep yourself and other people safe.”

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At Bread Ahead, in Hampstead High Street, footfall remains quiet, and there is a lot of wasted food on weekday evenings, according to staff member Adela Ksinanova.

Adela said coffee sale are up, however: “When people are walking from Hampstead Heath, they always stop by for a coffee and a treat.”

Le Pain Quotidian, just down the high street, was shut for six months after the first lockdown, only opening again in September. 

Naim Bhieb, an assistant there, said the short notice for the second lockdown meant lots of open or perishable stock was wasted. Her colleague Inese Logina added: “It’s not that busy. It’s so empty, lonely, I mean there’s nothing to say.

“People are scared to come out. People don’t even have money to go out, to buy things.” 

What do you think of coffee shops offering takeaways during the lockdown? Write a letter to the Ham&High by emailing letters@hamhigh.co.uk.

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