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Al fresco dining set to return across Westminster to help struggling businesses (updated guidance March 2021)

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Tables and chairs laid out in soho for al fresco dining

Published: 19 March 2021

Read our comprehensive guide for businesses on al fresco hospitality (updated March 2021)

Westminster City Council’s al fresco scheme will be returning when restaurants, pubs and bars are expected to re-open to outdoor diners on 12 April and will remain throughout the summer months. The local authority has announced the move to support the hospitality sector during a very tough time for Westminster’s hospitality businesses.

The temporary measures were first introduced when lockdown restrictions eased in July last year and were a lifeline to the local economy, bringing much needed confidence and footfall back to Westminster. 

Since then, more than 560 premises have been issued with pavement licences and have been able to benefit from outdoor dining and 60 streets were transformed with temporary road closures and pavement widening to allow for outdoor restaurant seating in the street.  

The temporary measures seen in the summer and autumn last year, will support the same set of streets as before and will extend to the end of September.

The council will do everything it can to support businesses to re-open safely in the coming weeks. Given the need to keep access for emergency vehicles open and to accommodate residents and other businesses, we are unlikely to be able to have additional road closures or new pavement extensions at this time. We encourage businesses who have sufficient space in front of their premises to apply for a pavement licence. For those who can’t operate until indoor seating is expected to be allowed from 17 May, they should view our business support services.  

The council will be looking into a simplified process to make it easier for businesses, who already applied for pavement licences last year, to re-apply, so they will be able to provide al fresco dining from day one of re-opening.    

As the temporary al fresco measures return this summer, the council will consider the possibility of what a longer-term al fresco provision could look like. The council will be consulting with communities as and when designs are created and as the city recovers.   

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, said:   

"Hospitality is a major employer in Westminster supporting around 80,000 jobs and a big part of the reason people visit the West End. But with shutters down and doors barred, this sector has been amongst the hardest hit during lockdown.   

“We know how hard this has been, which is why we are relaunching our al fresco scheme as soon as the easing of restrictions allows to help struggling businesses as much as we can. We have more pubs, restaurants and bars than any other local authority area - around 3,700 - and we want to see them welcoming back customers in a safe way. The majority of our residents have supported these schemes in the past and we hope they will understand the need to continue the temporary measures until the end of September. 

“We stand ready to back our hospitality trade and continue to fight for the financial support they need to survive this period."

Read more information on al fresco dining