Westminster City Council extends outdoor eating and drinking ‘lifeline’ through October

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Outside chance: 'this popular scheme has been a lifeline for the hospitality sector,' Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan said
Outside chance: 'this popular scheme has been a lifeline for the hospitality sector,' Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan said

Related tags Health and safety Legislation London Coronavirus

Westminster City Council has revealed temporary measures to enable al fresco dining and hospitality across areas including Soho, Covent Garden, and Chinatown will continue for an extra month.

The scheme, which was introduced at the start of July in a bid to create more space for businesses to safely serve the public and help the West End’s hospitality sector to reopen, was originally set to wrap at the end of September.

However, a consultation with nearly 1,400 residents and businesses found that almost three quarters (73%) of businesses and residents supported the measures which have now been extended until 31 October. 

According to a statement from the council, there are currently outdoor dining measures at more than 50 locations across Westminster including Soho, Covent Garden, and Chinatown. 

The decision to let hospitality venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants spill onto London’s streets in July followed the introduction of similar measures in European cities such as Lithuanian capital Vilnius as early as April.​ 

The city’s mayor, Remigijus Šimašius permitted bar and restaurant owners to transform the historic city’s outdoor plazas, squares and streets into outdoor drinking and dining space in order to allow their businesses to serve guests observing social distancing rules.

“Nearby cafés will be able to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” Šimašius explained in a statement.

Successful economic life 

“This popular scheme has been a lifeline for the hospitality sector,” Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan said.

“We recognise the importance of our business community as being key to the successful economic life of the city. 

“We’re working closely with our residents to support local businesses, the backbone of our communities, and will continue to do all we can to help them.

“That’s why we have decided to allow the extension of the schemes that we have in place to support al fresco hospitality for all businesses that wish to continue using them until end of October.” 

Good neighbours

Throughout the month-long extension, Westminster City Council has pledged to ensure hospitality businesses remain “good neighbours” and are compliant with updated regulations such as the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants.

“We will always put the health of our residents and visitors first while doing everything possible to support our city through these very challenging times,” Robathan continued.

“We will keep working with residents, businesses and other key partners to identify local schemes that could benefit specific locations at certain times throughout the year in a safe manner.

“This could include supporting events such as Christmas fairs or al fresco dining at certain times where it suits an area and enjoys local support.”

London added to watch-list

The extension of al fresco dining measures by Westminster City Council comes despite the capital being added to the Government's Covid-19 watch-list following a spike in cases.

While all 32 boroughs have been classed as areas of concern, no additional restrictions mirroring those seen across Wales, the north east and Midlands have been announced thus far.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the city was at "a worrying tipping point" with hospital admissions increasing and recent figures showing that the number of daily coronavirus cases reported across London climbed above 500 last week.

In the week to 21 September, the London Borough of Redbridge recorded the highest infection rate per 100,000 residents at 55.4.

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