Chef Paul Askew on how the city is bouncing back better -and getting back on track by Christmas - The Guide Liverpool

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Chef Paul Askew on how the city is bouncing back better -and getting back on track by Christmas

22/09/2020

Liverpool is coming back from lockdown stronger than any other city in the UK. And top restaurateur Paul Askew has urged people not to ruin it.

He said: “Footfall is stronger in the city and Liverpool is bouncing back better than anywhere – including London.

“Let’s not spoil that.”

Paul, owner of The Art School Restaurant and Art School Cellars bar, says Liverpool has realised more than ever the importance of the hospitality and tourism industries to the city, and the value to its economy.

“We make up 50% of the properties in the city,” he added. “The party line from the city council is, of course, that we have to have a firm hold on health management but a strong focus on keeping our businesses alive and healthy too.”

Art School

“The high rate of infections means the new restrictions are necessary in the short term – and if people stick to them they could help us in the long term too, to get back to normal sooner.”

And the award-winning chef also stressed: “We need to get this right by Christmas – or we will have a miserable start to 2021.


“If we adhere to the conditions and new restrictions can then be reverted, that will give us a chance of a great Christmas together.”

Paul Askew cut his business’s working week down to four days after re-opening post-lockdown.

It allowed him to compress bookings and take advantage of the flexibility of the furlough scheme.

“And it has worked for us,” he said. “We are busy at both lunch times and dinner, private dining has also come back quite quickly – we have had birthdays and other celebrations that couldn’t be held during lockdown and, even, small weddings –  and we have not made anyone redundant.

“The priority is to keep the team together so, when this is over, we are in a strong position.

Paul Askew

“It does feel like we had just got going again and now we are having to adapt to this next level of guidelines and restrictions; and, unfortunately, it could be around for a long time. But we have just got to get on with it, and stick to our standards, keeping everything clean and safe.”

He hopes people’s confidence in dining out won’t be affected by the new rules, and that those business owners who haven’t taken the guidelines as seriously as they might have in the past, start to do so.

“The only way this is going to go away is if we all keep to it, and if we all stick to the rules.”

In order to be able to adhere to the new measures which have imposed a curfew on bars and restaurants between 10pm and 5am, Paul has moved his opening time an hour earlier and won’t be take any orders after 7.45pm (it used to be 9.15pm) so that his staff can clean down and everyone be off the premises by 10pm.

“I had thought we would be able to close down once guests had left after 10pm but the building has to be locked and everyone gone by then, and I do understand that there needs to be a benchmark otherwise this would be very difficult to enforce.

“As it is, I don’t think it will affect us as a restaurant as much as it will bars, although of course we have the Cellars.

The Art School Cellars

“What people need to have in their minds is that if we don’t embrace this new situation and take it seriously, following the new guidelines and paying due diligence to them, things will escalate and that could potentially be the circuit-breaker total lockdown.

“That’s a clear message to my colleagues in the industry who aren’t taking the guidelines seriously and are making it tough for everyone. And people should vote with their feet by only going to places that are.

“It all depends on how we perform in reducing the rate of infection now and the only way forward is to get it down.

“Put simply, the better we do, the more freedom we will have.”

Get all of the latest news for Liverpool and beyond here.

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