Neleen Strauss, the South African owner of one of London’s top restaurants, has hand delivered a bill of over R1.1 million to the mayor of London for “Olympic losses”.
Strauss took the bill, for £90 000, to Johnson on Thursday, claiming that her turnover has been down 80 percent after the mayor’s “scaremongering” tactics ahead of the Games.
“I’m not someone who is usually given to fits of pique. Nor will this period break me,” wrote Strauss in City AM, a London business daily on Friday. “I’m South African and I deal with problems head on, normally after a look at the cricket score while turning over a chop on the braai. But no braai will fill the substantial void in my company accounts.
“I squarely blame Johnson for my lack of customers because, time and again, he warned Londoners to leave room for the millions of visitors he said would come to the capital. This inspired city bosses to suggest that their employees either take their holidays during the Olympics, or work from home.
“The head of a large City accountancy firm told me that the number of employees actually working in his office had dropped to 15 percent. There is no-one here. And the heralded influx of tourists didn’t land in the city. They travelled east, where the action is.”
Strauss owns the High Timber restaurant on the banks of the Thames, close to the Millennium Bridge, servicing the city area of London, which is mainly financial. She co-owns the restaurant with the Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch and her wine cellar has a South African bias.
“With Gary and Kathy Jordan we have strong ties with the best wineries in SA, many of whom see it as a home-from-home when they are visiting the UK,” said Strauss. Now, however, much of that wine has sat un-drunk.
“I have hand-delivered a bill for £90 000 to the mayor of London. This is – give or take a few hundred pounds – what the Olympic Games have cost me in turnover since they began. And I have asked Boris Johnson to pay the bill personally, not from the seemingly limitless coffers that supported London 2012,” said Strauss.
“The mayor – the same mayor I voted for, by the way – may speak of jam tomorrow, but it’s the here and now that pays wages. I’m the one who shoulders the additional costs of employing staff to work extra hours because of new delivery times.
“Had I known, I would have closed my doors and sent everyone on holiday. It’s been a travesty of miscalculation and scaremongering. Did the mayor estimate, even for a minute, the true impact of his ‘sky is falling’ publicity campaign? No, he went into overdrive without, I believe, properly calculating the consequences of his recommendations.
“In my bill to Johnson, I have included the ludicrous 20 percent VAT imposed on my diners. And I can assure Johnson I will continue to promptly pay the £106 000 business rates collected every year. I wonder whether there will be a reduction in that amount, given that the City has been closed for business for two weeks.”