Late on Sunday night I made my way to Novikov's in Berkeley Street. There were about six Taxis sitting there, I decided to drive on by and check out Coventry Street. But at the bottom of Berkeley Street, by the lights with Piccadilly, I was hailed by a young man.
I told him I was a regular and that as it was late, I though it had adequate covered with the six Taxis already outside.
He told me he actually worked at the restaurant/bar and thought the impromptu, rolling rank was a great idea as the guests obviously preferred using licensed Taxis .
I mentioned the fact that I had seen the door staff accepting money from touts after being supplied with jobs.
He said the door staff are corrupt, they have agreement with some drivers, even unlicensed ones who pay more. But he said in general, the customers now know that Taxis will be outside or if not, regularly passing and feel much safer using our services.
He then explained why:
"The other night a friend of mine visited the club and as he left, the doorman put him in a car. On the way to his apartment he asked the driver to stop at a 24 hour shop to but cigarettes. My friend left a bag in the car and went into the shop. As he turned his back to make a purchase, the car sped off, taking his bag containing over £2,000 in currency. It also contained a few expensive personal items."
The young man told me this seems to be a regular trend in bars in this area, where customers have been robbed. Another problem in this respect, is drivers asking for money up front and driving off after being asked to stop briefly.
But most worrying of all is the story's he's heard from young female customers who have been victims of unwarranted sexual advances and even actual assaults. He said because of the nationality and profession of these young ladies, they are very hesitant to report the matter to police who, in his words, "Treat them like cheap whores".
It's time matters of this mature were dealt with properly by the authorities. It's time an official rank was implemented outside the restaurant, on the same lines as the one outside Nobu. This is a moving rank and a lot of work comes out of this venue. Both the management and customers would welcome an official rank, which would help combat the ever growing problem from sexual predators hiding in the lines of illegally plying for hire minicab touts who infest this area.
We have proved that ranks outside this type of establishment work and work well. Nobu, Q's, Zuma, Sketch, Movida and Swallow street all work well. When ranks are badly place they don't work as can be seen at Babble and Mahiki's.
It has to be made a requirement that before a new establishment can be given a satellite office license for private hire pick up, there has to be a rank for licensed Taxis outside with a point cab directly outside the exit. Both the licensing authority (LTPH) and the local council must put a stop to the practise of minicab touts waiting outside these premises to become hired. This is not allowed under present legislation and encourages sexual predators.
Don't spend your night driving round endlessly in circles, find a rank and work smart. Remember the cabby's etiquette:
Don't overtake a Taxi with its for-hire light on and don't pick up beside a rank with cabs on.
Don't let them turn us against each other and keep up our high standards.
Lets take our work back.