Just as the New Year lockdown was announced, the proprietors of High Barnet's newest brasserie, Botannika, went ahead with their planned opening -- offering a take-away menu and a range of bread and cakes.
Up and down the High Street quite a few of the non-essential shops that will have to remain closed are doing their utmost to find ways to keep trading by switching to online orders, click and collect, or offering a delivery service.
Among the hardest hit, with apparently little hope of resuming business until mid-February at the earliest, or perhaps as long as the end of March, are public houses and the many hairdressing salons and beauty parlours for which High Barnet is famous.
However, opticians are being allowed to remain open, as are all food shops – as well as the twice-weekly Barnet fruit and vegetable market at the Spires – and also restaurants and cafes for take-aways only.
At the very moment the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was working on his broadcast to announce the new lockdown, the finishing touches were being added to the interior of Botannika, which has replaced Carluccio’s restaurant at the entrance to the Spires.
Demonstrating his confidence in the future prospects for High Barnet’s shopping centre, Botannika manager Mehran Shirazi said he was sure their extensive range of new tastes and experiences would have a wide appeal.
“We are starting off with a take-away service and our bakery. We will just have to see how we get on during the next few days as this new lockdown takes effect.”
When the restrictions are finally lifted, customers will be able to relax in a botanically themed interior space and the brasserie will offer a full range of “healthy, tantalising dishes”, baked goods, and an extensive vegan menu.
Unlike the first lockdown last year, many High Street premises did manage to maintain some trade despite the tier-four restrictions, and they hope that despite the latest government order to “stay at home”, customers will continue to shop by phone or online.
Wanders shoe shop has launched an online sale with a shop window full of footwear marked with reductions.
Another High Street specialist, the traditional sweet shop Hopscotch, is offering a local delivery service for online orders for confectionery, teas, cake-making, and bakery supplies.
An added restriction during the new lockdown is a ban on the sale of take-away alcohol at restaurants, pubs, and bars – an instruction that has scuppered plans to re-open the Mitre at weekends offering take-away fish and chips and beer or wine.
Publican Gary Murphy was distraught on hearing news of the latest restriction because he had hoped to start selling off beer from the 30 barrels of real ale that he has stored in the Mitre’s cellar.
“Unless we can start selling some of this beer pretty soon it will all go off and have to be poured down the drain.
“I just can’t understand why publicans have been singled out yet again. I was just about to re-open at weekends offering take-away fish chips and real ale, now that has been banned by yet another random restriction.
“What’s the point of banning a pub like the Mitre selling take-away beer when cans of beer are on sale just a couple of doors away at the Tesco convenience store. It doesn’t make sense.”
Mr Murphy, who lost 50 per cent of usual takings in 2020 – and who has not earned any money from the Mitre since last March – says he fears another repeat of on-off business during 2021.
“Like so many pubs up and down the country we have been able to demonstrate that we can open safely, there is more than enough social distancing, but ministers seem to be totally oblivious of the fact that lockdown is causing immense problems over loneliness and mental health.
“At some point we are going to have to live with the virus and the communal space that pubs can offer should be part of the recovery, but yet again we have no clarity on when we might be able to resume normal business.”
Mr Murphy predicted that pub landlords would soon be facing a point of no return and have to start thinking of other employment as so many enterprises just could not see when they might be profitable again.
Hairdressers and beauty salons face a comparable predicament with no end in sight to the ban on businesses offering personal care.
At the latest count there were 16 hairdressers, barbers, spas, and nail bars along the length of Barnet High Street – helping Barnet live up to its fame in Cockney rhyming slang.
A survey in 2016 showed that there were more hairdressing salons in the London Borough of Barnet than in any other part of the capital, except for the West End.