Dining moves outdoors as London restaurants prepare to reopen

A swathe of central London is to be transformed into a continental-style outdoor dining area under plans to keep bars and restaurants in business.

Westminister council is lining up 50 projects to make space for al-fresco dining including pavement widening and temporary road closures for part of the day in popular districts such as Chinatown, Covent Garden, Soho and Mayfair. Some small streets near Oxford Circus could also be closed for part of the day to accommodate tables.

The plan, which could be implemented on 4 July if the government lifts lockdown restrictions on hospitality businesses, includes:

  • Diners and drinkers must sit at tables and be served by waiting staff.

  • A ban on standing and drinking outside.

  • Toilets can be used inside bars and restaurants. The council will not initially provide extra facilities but says it will consider doing so if required.

  • Marshals to ensure 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.

Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster city council, 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 people fly thousands of miles to enjoy the West End.

“The West End in particular is a unique global draw, and I am confident we can give it and our other famous locations a continental sheen that visitors, residents and regulars alike will enjoy.”

Westminster’s proposals, which are out to consultation until 21 June, have been announced as the hospitality industry prepares to reopen next month under government rules that demand 2-metre distancing between customers whodo not live together.

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

Cities around the UK are preparing to expand outdoor dining facilities with Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham working on plans to pedestrianise streets or widen pavements to allow more space for outdoor tables.



The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, is expected to announce plans that will make it easier for pubs and restaurants across the country to set up outdoor dining as early as this week.

Legislation is expected to enable restaurants to add tables on terraces or rooftops without planning permission and give temporary permission for pubs and bars to convert car parks into drinking and dining areas without licence changes.

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