One of the the last remaining outposts of the Cocktail Renaissance announced plans to permanently close. In a letter to members, Jonathon Downey owner of Milk & Honey London revealed that his legendary bar will serve their last drinks in September.
In 1999, Sasha Petraske opened Milk & Honey in NYC. The craft bar was an oddity at the time, but quickly ushered in the Cocktail Renaissance. In 2002, a satellite, Milk & Honey London, opened. That outpost kept Petraske’s vision alive years past both the closing of the original spot and the founder’s death.
However, a dispute with the bar’s landlord over unpaid rent during the lockdown forced the bar to begin winding down operations.
“The very bad news is that, after more than 18 years in Soho, this will be our final ten weeks before we are forced to close for good,’ wrote Downey in the letter.
“Despite paying almost £4 million in rent since we first signed the lease on Poland Street, our landlords are refusing to allow us any rent-free or other reduced deal for the period we’ve been closed by government order, and their position has not changed in months. It looks like it never will.”
Many industry leaders predicted the COVID lockdowns would force bars to close if action was not taken. Downey was prominent amongst this group. In March, he founded Hospitality Union, a coalition of over 3000 UK-based hospitality business owners.
The organization pushed hard for rent relief, advocating for #NationalTimeout, a nine month national payment pause.
“Hospitality is in crisis. On current estimates, more than half of hospitality businesses and as many as 2m jobs will not survive the next few months,” Downey wrote in a piece for The Morning-Advertiser. “This is obviously a disaster for those of us in the industry; but it is also a threat to the national and local economies, to already vulnerable town centres, and to ordinary people up and down the country who love and value the experience of coming together that hospitality offers.”