Westminster Council U-turns on plans to introduce al fresco charges for restaurants

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Westminster Council U-turns on plans to introduce al fresco charges for restaurants

Related tags Westminster city council Restaurant Al fresco Coronavirus London

Westminster City Council has scrapped plans to charge restaurant and bar operators thousands of pounds to keep trading outside through the winter months.

On Friday, City A.M. ​revealed that the Council was set to charge businesses £7 per square metre of outside space, per day, once the existing ‘al fresco’ scheme comes to an end on October 31. 

Westminster City Council launched the scheme back in July​ to coincide with the lifting of Coronavirus lockdown restrictions on the hospitality sector. It included temporary permission for restaurants and cafes to set up tables and chairs outdoors, alongside 'soft' road closures throughout the borough.

Plans to introduce charges were met with uproar from restaurants and bars, which have already been badly impacted by the enhanced Coronavirus restrictions forced on the capital.

Some businesses said they would have faced an annual bill of between £50,000 and £100,000 under the plans.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the plans, criticising the 'excessive charges' as 'short-sighted and counter-productive'.

He urged the council to axe the scheme in order to 'keep the centre of London vibrant and open throughout this challenging time'.

The Council has subsequently rowed back on the decision.

In a statement, Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan, said: “We recognise that restaurants are facing desperate times – that’s why we introduced the summer al fresco dining scheme and have extended it to the winter.

"In view of additional central government funding, announced on Thursday, we are able to cover costs of the winter scheme so that restaurants and bars can serve customers without any extra cost being charged by the council.

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