Operators back plan to let drinkers spill onto pavements post-lockdown

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Streets ahead: Alan Lorimer of The Piano Works has called for a relaxation of licensing laws for outdoor operations
Streets ahead: Alan Lorimer of The Piano Works has called for a relaxation of licensing laws for outdoor operations

Related tags Beer Public house Restaurant Alcoholic beverage

The founder of Piano Works has proposed that the UK’s hospitality sector could safely reopen if pubs, bars and restaurants are allowed to serve customers seated on streets and squares after lockdown.

Under The UK's Grand Outdoor Summer Café​ campaign, Alan Lorimer is imploring authorities to relax licensing restrictions and permit hospitality operators to use open spaces outside venues to serve food and drinks to customers while observing social distancing rules.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​), the Government revealed that “at least some” pubs would be able to open on 4 July​ at the earliest under social distancing restrictions for staff​ and customers​, including maintaining a distance of at least 2m from anyone outside of your household.

However, inspired by Lithuania’s capital Vilnius​ – which announced plans to seat bar and restaurant customers on pavements, streets and squares to enjoy socially distanced food and drink – Lorimer wrote to business secretary Alok Sharma on 8 May to propose a similar solution for British hospitality.

“We propose a similar action that could be rolled out across the UK, within high streets and open spaces,” he wrote. “This is an opportunity for operators to start trading again and will boost public morale hugely. We will also fund-raise to say thank you to our front-line workers with vouchers for use at the outdoor cafés.”  

Lorimer continued: “The UK’s Grand Outdoor ​Summer Café​ is a way to thank the British people for obeying the lockdown rules so responsibly, start rebuilding the hospitality industry, improve public wellbeing and safely reopen the UK.

“Experiences like pubs, craft beer bars, street food stalls, live music venues, food halls and high-end restaurants have been a part of this country’s identity for locals and visitors alike. Slowly and safely allowing us all to enjoy this summer is an essential step in the right direction, demonstrating the UK’s creativity and determination to be able to safely start to discover and enjoy our ‘new normal’.”

Pub sector support 

At the time of writing, The UK's Grand Outdoor Summer Café​ had received the backing of more than 70 operators from across the hospitality sector, including Livelyhood Pubs, Yummy Pubs, Adventure Bars, Darwin and Wallace, Oakman Inns, Revolution Bars and St Austell Brewery.

In addition to UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls raising the idea with Government, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph​ on 17 May, local government minister Robert Jenrick stated that he was considering “blanket permission” for venues to use pedestrianised streets to seat customers.

"We are hoping to create a temporary ceasefire between councils, hospitality operators and our neighbours," Lorimer said of the campaign. "In the present system we have outdoor battle lines drawn by councils that operators must defend each year, rightly giving neighbours the right to object to the sound of merriment below their windows.

"Let's create a summertime truce, let us come together, re-emerge safely and thank the frontline that we are alive. The Government can make this happen at no cost and with goodwill from councils, hospitality and neighbours we can enjoy the summer and bring our towns and villages slowly and safely back to life."

As reported by MA​, a number of publicans have argued that opening under 2m social distancing would be unworkable as things stand, with alternatives such implementing a 1m policy in line with World Health Organisation guidelines​ mooted as one possible solution alongside Lorimer's campaign. 

As part of The UK’s Grand Outdoor Summer Café​, the Piano Works founder is seeking £70,000 via crowdfunding platform JustGiving with 85% of donations pledged to fund food and drinks vouchers to reward key workers, with 15% to be used to cover the campaign’s admin and people costs.

Read the latest digital edition of The Morning Advertiser​ – for free – by clicking here​.

Related topics Licensing law UnitedWeStand

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