Outdoor dining boom sparked by pandemic to become permanent fixture under Government proposals

Outdoor dining and street markets introduced during the pandemic could become permanent, according to government plans.

A newly launched consultation will seek public opinion on maintaining the measures originally put in place to stop the transmission of Covid-19.

The government is proposing that pubs, cafes and restaurants be allowed to keep new structures such as marquees and additional seating on their premises.

But the move announced by the Department of Housing and Local Government doesn’t extend to the al fresco dining on the streets, which has become the norm over the past 18 months.

Councils across the country are now beginning to complete the relaxation of the rules that allowed this.

The hospitality industry broadly welcomed the government’s plans but urged ministers to go further to encourage and maintain outdoor seating on the streets by restricting traffic in cities and city centers.

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality Chief Executive, said, “The proposal to make outdoor activities permanent is a welcome boost for the hospitality industry, its customers and the local community.

“It has provided venues across the country with a vital lifeline during an exceptionally difficult period, and allowing operators to provide additional outdoor seating has been an important factor in survival and recovery since it reopened.”

However, she added that companies “face major hurdles in the fall and winter”.

“The move by some councils to limit outdoor seating and return traffic to these areas is a severe blow to our inner cities and threatens a large number of businesses and jobs,” she said.

“It is in the country’s best interests to have a thriving, dynamic and adequately supported hospitality sector and maintaining these outdoor activities would help ensure the recovery of a large and important part of the UK economy.”

The plans also include helping communities hold outdoor markets by giving local councils the power to hold them for an unlimited number of days.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The simple reforms we made during the pandemic to help hospitality companies, markets and historic visitor attractions make outdoor spaces easier to use have had a massive impact.

“As part of our vision of turning High Streets into thriving places to work, visit and live, we want to make as many of these activities as possible an integral part of British life.”

But Labor Shadow Community Secretary Steve Reed said, “Measures to help businesses recover from the pandemic are welcome, but this is a conservative government that is undermining the main drag by allowing retail space in.” Low quality homes are converted and the game does not balance the field between brick and mortar stores and online retailers.

“The Conservatives have left our shopping streets and UK shops behind, locked them out when they should have listened to them most, and actively watered down a global deal to tackle major tax evasion and stop online giants from undermining our shopping streets.”

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