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Alfresco dining to become permanent feature of some central London streets

The decision applies to parts of Covent Garden and St John’s Wood

Saman Javed
Thursday 16 September 2021 16:09 BST
Outdoor dining in Soho
Outdoor dining in Soho (Getty Images)

Alfresco dining will become a permanent feature in London’s Covent Garden and St John’s Wood, Westminster City Council has announced.

Last year, the government issued temporary licences allowing pubs, restaurants and bars to serve customers on pavements after social distancing restrictions implemented during the pandemic limited the number of people venues could accommodate inside.

Westminster council said the move had allowed nearly 900 local businesses, bars and restaurants to bounce back from the pandemic.

Now, following a month-long consultation, more than 80 per cent of residents and businesses have voted in favour of making outdoor dining a permanent fixture of their local neighbourhoods.

Alfresco dining will continue indefinitely on St John’s Wood High Street, Henriette Street, King Street, Maiden Lane and parts of Southampton Street.

The news comes after the council previously told residents that roads would reopen to vehicles at the end of September.

Matthew Green, Westminster City Council cabinet member for business, licensing and planning, said: “We’re really pleased that residents and businesses have voted in favour of keeping alfresco.

“We are committed to supporting our local communities bounce back from the pandemic. Alfresco has been and continues to be a lifeline for businesses in the West End.”

The council is exploring the possibility of extending alfresco dining in other areas, like Soho. As it stands, outdoor dining will end here on 30 September.

On Thursday, property investment firm Soho Estates staged a protest against the council’s decision to discontinue outdoor dining in the area.

“Alfresco Soho was absolutely necessary to keep this business community alive and without it, there would have been so many who failed,” John James, managing director of Soho Estates told Evening Standard.

“[The scheme] added a wonderful legacy to Soho which people have been enjoying and it’s been a great success. Stopping it baffles me,” he added.

Westminster Council’s latest decision on Soho comes after complaints from some residents.

In February, it faced backlash from locals when it announced that outdoor dining would return in the area after social restrictions were lifted.

Tim Lord of the Soho Society told Evening Standard that there were concerns about “street fouling” and the lack of temporary toilets for women.

“The council says it doesn’t want it to turn Soho into a transient community, but a lot of its decisions are completely in contrast to that,” he said.

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