Borough Market in London’s Southwark neighborhood bills itself as the city’s oldest food market. It’s a bustling daytime destination for retail and wholesale produce and specialty foods, surrounded by restaurants that fill up after the market closes. But, after a June 3 terrorist attack — during which three men exited a van to attack people on the streets after first barreling down pedestrians on the nearby London Bridge — the market and its environs have been designated a crime scene.
Update 6/12/2017: Borough Market will reopen on June 14.
The market had closed by the time the attack happened just before 10 p.m. on that Saturday night, but the surrounding restaurants were open and lively, and London’s restaurant community was particularly affected by the attack. Alexandre Pigeard, a French waiter who worked at Boro Bistro in Borough Market, and Sebastien Belanger, a French chef who worked at the restaurant Coq d’Argent, were among the eight people killed, London restaurant blog the Caterer reports. But many within London’s Borough Market community are projecting resilience — even as restaurant and business owners are left wondering when they’ll be able to open again.
Donald Hyslop, chair of Borough Market trustees, released a statement saying only that the market would open “soon,” and that when it does, it will “get on with its job of selling food and drink to the people of London — a function it has fulfilled for a thousand years, through plague, political upheaval, and the bombs of two world wars.”
No one — nearby restaurant owners included — has been allowed access to the market or the surrounding pubs and restaurants since June 3, and for many operators, the aftermath of the attacks has meant losing a week of business and product.
Cannon & Cannon, a British cured meat and charcuterie purveyor with both a retail and wholesale operation, has been unable to access its cold storage unit inside Borough Market. “For small businesses with perishable stock this is a disaster, and continues to be so, as stock cannot even be accessed,” founder Sean Cannon says. “Traders are losing their very livelihood.”
On Thursday, Cannon & Cannon sent out a request for temporary cold storage via Twitter in an attempt to keep their operations at other markets up and running. The tweet has since become the company’s most re-tweeted, and Cannon says the team is has been offered a temporary “new base” that would allow them to continue to supply their wholesale and retail customers. “The quicker we can get back out there the better,” he says. “There is no fear, only determination and a longing to get back to doing what we love.”
Restaurant operators in the Borough Market area, though, simply have to wait until the police presence has cleared and they are allowed back into their spaces to set right overturned tables and reopen.
Mexican restaurant El Pastor is located on Stoney Street, the market-adjacent street that bore the brunt of the attack. On Saturday night, the restaurant staff was evacuated safely after repelling the attackers and looking after guests inside the restaurant, “including one injured party with the help of two nurses who were dining there,” according to Sophie Orbaum, a spokesperson for the restaurant. Now, the team waits for word on when they’ll be allowed back into the space. “We are hoping in the next week, but we’re keen to reopen as soon as possible,” Orbaum says.
As another Stoney Street restaurant, Elliot’s, waits to reopen, its manager, Candice Hedge, a victim of the attack, waits to heal. On Facebook, the Elliot’s team thanked everyone for their support and included an update on her condition: “We’re so, so glad to report that our amazing manager (not waitress, mainstream tabloids!) Candice is recovering well in hospital & displaying her customary sunny Aussie wisecracking spirit. Go girl!” Their statement continues:
We’ve been overwhelmed by so many stories — of restaurant workers and bar staff, bouncers and bakers and hospo folk all over Borough Market and London Bridge — demonstrating total fearlessness and self-sacrifice; delivering so many strangers to safety; supporting the scared, the injured, and those in real danger. These extraordinary human beings are total legends and heroes and we are fiercely proud to count them as peers in the hospitality industry.
London diners are in clear agreement. In the comments of these restaurants’ Facebook announcements, guests from June 3 thank the staff for keeping them safe. Ed Smith, a London food writer who has covered Borough Market extensively, says that the outpouring of support from the general public has also been remarkable. “I think that when the market and the pubs and the restaurants around it are able to open again, there will be a flood of people going to show their support by buying fresh produce and drinking and eating and doing what the place does best,” he says. “People are desperate to go back.”
In the meantime, the Borough Market food community is banding together. Will Beckett, owner of Hawksmoor, a restaurant near Borough Market that is now closed but was not in the direct line of the attack, says, “There is an amazing (and tightly knit) foodie community in Borough and everyone’s focus is on their staff and the restaurants who suffered the most, many of whom are working out how to get their businesses [and] livelihoods going again. There is considerable urge to bounce back.” Beckett also notes that Hospitality Action, a UK charity that supports the hospitality industry, has also been a resource for Borough Market restaurants as they recover.
Some area restaurants have indicated that they expect to be open as soon as this weekend. The London Bridge location of Mango Indian left an announcement on Facebook noting it hoped to open June 10. Arabica Bar, meanwhile, posted on Facebook earlier this week: “We hope, all being well and good, to re-open the restaurant and the shawarma shack on Friday. Please do stand united with us and join us to eat, drink, and celebrate the lives of those whose were cruelly cut short.” Borough Market, however, announced on Twitter that it would remain closed through the weekend.
• Statement from Borough Market [Borough Market]
• French chef from Coq d’Argent died in terror attack [The Caterer]