London’s West End restaurants and pubs moving outdoors

This summer, much of the West End is to be turned into an outdoor dining zone “continental-style” to keep hundreds of pubs, restaurants and bars from going bust. 

Places on dozens of streets in Covent Garden, Soho, Mayfair and Marylebone would be permitted to place tables and chairs on pavements and even on the road under revolutionary plans announced today by the city council in Westminster.

In an unprecedented move, a number of major routes, including St Martin’s Lane and Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, and Dean Street and Old Compton Street in Soho will be closed to traffic entirely for part of the day. The changes are expected to come into force on July 4 when the government said it would allow the hospitality sector to re-establish, although this date has not been announced yet.

The plan includes:

  • Diners and drinkers must sit at tables and be served by the staff.
  • A ban on standing and drinking outside.
  • Toilets can be used inside bars and restaurants. The council will not initially give additional facilities but says it will consider doing so if needed.
  • Officers to guarantee physical distancing in some areas.
  • The removal of parking spaces in some areas to make space.
  • Restaurants and bars that do not have a licence for outdoor tables and chairs will have to apply for a fast-track licence.

Westminster City Council Leader Rachael Robathan said: “The hospitality sector is vital to Westminster ‘s economy with more than 3,000 bars and restaurants. They and our many other attractions are the reason why people fly thousands of miles to enjoy the West End. 

“In particular, the West End is a unique global draw, and I’m confident that we can give it and our other famous places a continental sheen that visitors, residents and regulars alike will enjoy.”

Westminster’s proposals, which are to be consulted until June 21, were announced as the hospitality industry is preparing to reopen next month under government rules that require a 2-meter distance between non-living customers. 

Many restaurants and bars fear they will struggle to survive because, under the guidelines designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, they will not be able to entertain enough clients inside their premises.

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