The Soho Summer Street Festival is a huge boon to restaurants and bars hit badly by the lockdown.
Over the past few months, no part of London has run as usual, but the gap between normal pre-pandemic and the regular lockdown was more significant nowhere than in Soho, where the once-bustling streets plunged quiet. What is worse, part of Soho’s infinite charm – the crowds of people feasting, drinking, dancing, and shopping – emerged as a significant barrier to its reopening, as social distancing became the buzzword of any lockdown easing. Luckily, a new campaign called the Soho Summer Street Festival aimed at temporarily pedestrianising streets to bring back Londoners and resurrect the hospitality industry in the area – and now the Westminster Council has given the scheme the green light.
Over 6500 people – from Stephen Fry to Chrissie Hynde, Damien Hirst to Bill Nighy, and Amanda Holden to former Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar – signed the petition to bring the festival to life. From today, Saturday, July 4, it will become a reality. Sixteen streets in Soho will be pedestrianised from 5 pm each evening, including Greek Street, Dean Street, Old Compton Street and Frith Street. This will enable local businesses to reopen safely in the age of social distance, as the vast increase in space available to restaurants, bars, and more can flood the streets with alfresco dining, drinking, and party while keeping a safe distance from others.
Restaurants and bars in the area are understandably chuffed with this outcome and will launch an enticing range of offers to celebrate their return this Saturday – including lots of tributes to the NHS ‘s amazing pandemic-led work. Pasta aficionados Pastaio offer free meals to the under-12s all summer, where NHS and key workers will get 50% off their bill, and hospitality employees, students and over-6s can see a 25 % discount. Meanwhile, Bar Italia will have discounts for NHS, and key workers and Poppies will throw in a free glass of wine or a bottle of beer to any diner. Barrafina, Bar Termini, Dean Street Townhouse, and Bar Swift are amongst the other bars and restaurants to make use of the new seating arrangements.
As the campaign website remarked upon launching, “with Soho being a place of activity, recreation, eating and drinking, we have been amongst the most seriously hit. With so many independent businesses in Soho, we are in danger of losing the culture that makes the area so special.” Thankfully, the plan – which has had to overcome the logistics of things like licensing laws (to allow people to drink on the street), deliveries, emergency service access, and what will happen if the rain comes – has been a victory, and Soho will be the lively heart of town once again. Head down to join the fun!
Approved temporary street closures include:
Greek Street, Old Compton Street, Frith Street, Dean Street, Bateman Street, Berwick Street, Moor Street, D’Arblay Street, Upper James Street, Upper John Street and Golden Square, Broadwick Street, Marshall Street, Lexington Street, Denman Street, Brewer Street and Poland Street.
Bars and restaurants also opening over the weekend include:
Pastaiowill reopen with free meals for under 12s all summer. NHS key-workers will receive 50% off their bill and 25% off for hospitality workers, students and over 60s
Poppies Fish & Chips Poppies is back and gifting guests a free glass of wine or bottle of beer when they next dine in, available to redeem via their website
Sola will be re-opening with a brand new summer menu
Bar Italia will be offering NHS and key worker discounts
40 Dean Street
Old Compton St Brasserie
Comptons of Soho
Zima Restaurant will celebrate re-opening by raising money for their charity partner ‘Gift of Life’ – 10% of every pound spent at Zima in the first week will be donated to the Russian children’s cancer charity. Every dining guest for the first week (between 5-7pm) will get a complimentary Russian ice cream called Plombyr.
Barrafina Dean Street (from July 9). Reservations are available.
You can see the specific locations of the street closures, plus the hours respectively will be closed, on the campaign website.