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Business as usual? Camden Market stays open

Labtech: 'In these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to support the small, independent businesses that make Camden Market great'

17 March, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

The new Buck Street Market container complex site

THE world famous Camden Markets were still trading this morning (Tuesday) with owners saying they were advising stall holders on social distancing.

But after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people to restrict their movements and social contacts last night (Monday) in a bid to slow down the spread of Covid-19, traders told the New Journal that there was a slump in tourist footfall and appeals to suspend their rent.

The spread of the coronavirus in the UK has escalated in recent days with the government’s medical advisers identifying London as being higher up the curve of cases.

The new container market site in Buck Street had been due a grand opening this week, with Keir Starmer, the Holborn and St Pancras MP, scheduled to cut the ribbon. This event has been abandoned.

One trader in the new complex said they had not sold one item – but still had to work.

“I was told if I don’t come in, I don’t get paid – and my boss said if we don’t pay our rent to landlords, we’ll be evicted,” they said.

“We’ve only just set up here, and we can’t quite comprehend what we should do or how we can continue under the circumstances. Everyone is fearful of picking something up. The government should’ve insisted all businesses like ours close immediately – and help us get through this. Surely they are asking us to socially isolate? Working on a market stall in the middle of Camden Town doesn’t sound like social isolation to me.”

Another contacted the New Journal and said they did not believe trading should continue.

“Customers are down but still thousands of people are coming and going every day,” they said. “The response from the Market has been Business As Usual.”
The trader claims that promises to install hand sanitiser points in the market have not yet materialised.

The New Journal has seen an email sent to traders from market managers which says they should keep trading – for now.

“We are very aware of the effect COVID-19 is having, we are taking direction from the Public Health England (PHE) and monitoring the situation closely,” it said.  “In line with this, Camden Market will remain open and it is business as usual for all traders. We are always here to support you, and we are taking every precaution possible to ensure the health and safety of all. We are constantly monitoring the facilities available to our customers. ”

“We have also placed handwashing posters in all toilets and are ensuring soap and anti-bacterial gel are available. We encourage you to take precautions too and follow the PHE guidelines of regularly washing your hands, using anti-bacterial gel, and continuing to maintain excellent food hygiene standards. During this time we will provide regular communications as when we are informed.”

A spokesman for Lab Tech told the New Journal rents would be alleviated ‘drastically’ and the company us constantly monitoring and helping to support traders.

“In these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to support the small, independent businesses that make Camden Market great,” he said.

“We are working with our traders to encourage social distancing practices, including click and collect, food delivery and strict hygiene regimes that include regularly washing hands, and following the government guidelines for food preparation and isolating staff that feel unwell. We support each and everyone of our traders and are constantly monitoring government instructions and WHO recommendations as and when they are issued.”

The spokesman added: “Until the information and direction changes, we will remain open and trading to the public.”

Meanwhile, street food group Kerb announced on Instagram that their flagship Covent Garden covered market in Seven Dials was shutting its doors to the public at the end of trading today (Tuesday).

The company said: “We are taking the sad but inevitable decision to temporarily close Seven Dials Market throughout today, closing at 9pm for the foreseeable future. We opened in September and in that time our 25 brilliant traders have sold over £5m worth of food, with an estimated 400,000 customers and friends joining us across these last six months.”

Ir called on customers to lobby central government to offer more aid to London’s vital food, drink and leisure sectors – where many workers are on zero hour style contracts or are small, independent businesses.

“These are beyond testing times for a previously buoyant and brilliant London food and hospitality industry, and a vital part of our city’s fabric,” Kerb said. “We ask you to join calls for government aid for the industry to ensure that once we all get out the other side of this unprecedented historic time so there are still restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas and hotels for all of us to enjoy, and jobs for the millions of wonderful people who have made our unique hospitality scene such a pleasure to be a part of.”

“Sticking together has never felt more needed or more obvious as we all work through this huge global curve ball together. It’s going to be a tough few months where our grit, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit is required like never before. Thank you for all the support you are able to give to us and the businesses we represent now, during and once we’re through this. And what a feast we will have when it’s all over.”

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