Covid-19: 'Year-round markets and permanent extra outdoor seating to help hospitality'

5 September 2021, 00:01

The Government is consulting on plans to help hospitality businesses bounce back after Covid-19
The Government is consulting on plans to help hospitality businesses bounce back after Covid-19. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Markets could open all year round and outdoor seating and marquees could stay under Government plans to help hospitality bounce back after the coronavirus pandemic.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants are set to be allowed to keep new structures like marquees and additional outside seating on their grounds, following a consultation.

The hospitality sector welcomed the plans, but urged ministers to go further to promote and retain outdoor seating in the streets by restricting traffic in town and city centres.

The consultation will consider only some of the changes introduced during the pandemic in order to promote customers dining outdoors to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

READ MORE: Government set to defy JCVI advice and vaccinate healthy children 'from next week'

But an announcement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government did not include the al fresco dining on streets, with councils starting to wrap up the relaxations.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The proposal to make outdoor measures permanent is a welcome boost for the hospitality sector, its customers and local communities.

"It has provided a vital lifeline to venues all over the country during an extraordinarily difficult period and allowing operators to provide extra outside seating has been a key driver of survival and recovery since reopening."

But she added that businesses "face huge hurdles going into the autumn and winter".

"The move by some councils to restrict outdoor seating and return traffic to these areas is a significant blow to our city centres and threatens a huge number of businesses and jobs.

"It is in the interest of the country to have a thriving, dynamic and properly-supported hospitality sector and retaining these outdoor measures would help secure the recovery of a large and vital part of the UK economy."

The plans include supporting communities to hold outdoor markets by giving powers to local councils to grant them for an unlimited number of days.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "The simple reforms we made during the pandemic to help hospitality businesses, markets and historic visitor attractions make use of outdoor spaces more easily, made a massive impact.

"As part of our vision to transform high streets into thriving places to work, visit and live, we intend to make as many of these measures permanent fixtures of British life as possible."

The ability to easily grant pavement licences for al fresco dining has been extended to September next year, but some exemptions are already being wound up locally.

One example is Westminster City Council's decision to this month end the road closures that have enhanced al fresco dining in Soho.

Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said: "Measures to help businesses recover after the pandemic are welcome but this is a Conservative Government which is undermining the high street by allowing retail spaces to be turned into low quality housing and failing to level the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses and online retailers.

"The Conservatives have left our high streets and British businesses behind, blocking them out when they should have been listening to them the most, and actively watering down a global deal to tackle major tax-dodging and stop online giants undercutting our high streets."