Soho streets face 'effective lockdown' as al fresco scheme comes to an end

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Soho streets face 'effective lockdown' as al fresco scheme comes to an end

Related tags Soho Westminster city council Al fresco Coronavirus

Westminster City Council has informed businesses that traffic will be re-introduced to Soho’s streets at the end of September, bringing to an end the area's popular al fresco dining scheme.

According to City A.M.​, ​the streets affected by the ending of the temporary road closures include Frith Street, Greek Street, Dean Street, Moor Street and Old Compton Street.

Restaurants with existing licences will still be able to use pavements, but roads will be off-limits.

Westminster City Council launched the al fresco scheme in July last year​ to coincide with the lifting of the first Coronavirus lockdown. It included temporary permission for restaurants and cafes to set up tables and chairs outdoors, alongside 'soft' road closures throughout the borough.

City A.M. ​says it understands the Council is open to the idea of extending al fresco schemes where residents are keen.

Westminster City Council had already said it planned to bring the scheme to an end in September, but businesses hoped it would be extended into the winter as it was last year. 

John James, managing director of Soho Estates and a member of the Soho Business Alliance, told City A.M. ​that removing the area’s al fresco permissions would send the streets back into effective lockdown.

“History tells us that hospitality can be a leading force in driving economic recovery. Soho needs al fresco to survive, and we simply wouldn’t be here without it.”

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “We introduced al fresco dining after lockdown to enable residents and visitors back to enjoy safer outdoor dining and in, April and May this year, to allow businesses to reopen when indoor dining wasn’t permitted. 

"This has been a huge success, supporting around 80,000 jobs and creating more than 16,000 additional covers across the city – the highest number in London – saving countless businesses and jobs in Soho and across the West End.

“We always said interventions such as road closures and barriers were temporary and would end on 30 September. The end of temporary measures does not mean that all al fresco dining cannot continue; businesses can still apply for pavement licenses where there is space on the footway.

"Additionally, we are consulting residents in six areas across the city, including Covent Garden, on whether some of the temporary measures should be transitioned into new long-term schemes. If residents approve these new schemes, they will be able to begin on 1 October. Furthermore, we are working with Soho residents and businesses to co-design a Vision for Soho that will go out to consultation towards the end of this year.”

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