Employment & Economy

Revisiting Brick Lane: the Impact of COVID-19 on an Ethnically Diverse High Street

Written by:
Claire Alexander, Seán Carey, Suzanne Hall and Julia King
Read time:

With a focus on Brick Lane, the briefing goes on to show how the pandemic and subsequent economic disruption has not only led to shop closures but a detrimental impact to livelihoods and the local communities.

This briefing is an update following ‘Beyond Banglatown’, a 2020 research project from the Runnymede Trust and CoDE.

Key points:

  • High streets remain crucial to the economic, social and cultural lives of our cities, towns and neighbourhoods.
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated existing struggles for business owners and workers in the food and hospitality sectors nationally; this has implications for South Asian Muslim communities, who have historically been over-represented in these areas – 30.7 per cent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are employed in distribution, hospitality and food retail, and 20.4 per cent are self-employed/small business owners.
  • Successive pandemic lockdowns have severely impacted businesses in Brick Lane, notably the ‘Indian’ restaurants.
  • While support schemes (rent and furlough) have mitigated some of the impact of the lockdowns, business closures in Brick Lane have doubled and trading activities for remaining businesses have been severely curtailed.
  • Moving business online through deliveries has been made difficult by the exorbitant rates of digital platforms.
  • Although the majority of businesses have now reopened, trade is very low (estimated at around two-thirds of usual turnover, and lower for the curry houses at 10–30 per cent). Some new businesses are opening up, but there is concern among established businesses about the future.

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