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Westminster blazes trail for al fresco reopening

Sat, 04/07/2020

Today (4 July), an innovative and ambitious set of plans by Westminster City Council, developed through ongoing discussions with residents and businesses, comes to fruition. 60 temporary schemes developed by the Council will enable the transformation of the City into pedestrian-friendly, al fresco dining zones.

Westminster's plans are bringing continental ‘café culture’ to some of the country's most famous districts, such as Soho, Covent Garden, and Chinatown. Bars and restaurants are being given a unique opportunity, on a scale unseen anywhere else in England, to reopen and welcome back customers in a safe, outdoor environment. While not all schemes will launch this weekend and not all businesses will be reopening from today, Westminster's initiative gives a much-needed boost to the City's hospitality sector. 

In the run up to 4 July, the Council has worked to make the West End as safe as possible for visitors – widening pavements, adding thousands of square feet of extra space for pedestrians, supporting temporary road closures with social distancing messaging and advice to keep patrons safe. This key support for businesses comes as just part of a campaign of over 100 schemes that the council has implemented to promote the safe and successful reopening of Westminster’s streets. The Council has also added 11km of bike lanes and over 800 new cycle spaces throughout the City. This has helped to ensure that Westminster remains safe and makes it easy for people to visit their local shops, bars, and restaurants.

Safety has been the leading consideration in forming the plans, with social distancing measures and consideration of national public health messages central to each initiative. Businesses and residents have been regularly consulted, and guidance put in place to allow premises to serve customers and manage patrons safely and effectively. 

As well as providing a novel blueprint for a successful reopening of the hospitality sector, the Council has also ramped up its essential services to match the expected increase of visitors over the weekend. Council officers will support social distancing and help reduce disruption to residents to a minimum. As hospitality reopens, consultation will continue with local residents, business, and stakeholders. Premises will also be monitored and marshalled. Updates and changes will be made if required as further lockdown measures ease and more people return to the City’s streets. 

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

“After months of quiet streets and shuttered doors, some of our City's most famous areas are today able to become hubs of safe, al fresco dining and enjoyment.” 

“While this is clearly an exciting time for Westminster, it’s also a time to stress that the safety of visitors, residents, and workers is just as paramount as ever. We want people to enjoy themselves today and throughout the summer, but we also need to ensure that safety measures and social distancing rules continue to be followed as rigorously as possible. Everyone has to play their part. We have earned the freedom to go out this weekend by obeying the rules - so stay safe and let’s not risk another lockdown.

“Today I hope we can share a safe and enjoyable time in the West End and across the city. It’s been a long time coming - but it’s now time for Westminster to raise the curtain and show the world that London is back in business.” 

To read the council’s comprehensive brochure of proposals for opening the hospitality industry in the West End visit: 

Westminster is fully prepared to open this weekend: 

  • We expect around three quarters of our 3,700 licensed venues to be open on Saturday night 
  • We will be putting on 16 extra mechanical road sweepers across 24 hours on top of our normal cleaning rota 
  • We have extensive public toilet provision across the City 
  • 59 streets across the borough will see a combination of rolling temporary timed closures and pavement widening to allow for outdoor restaurant and bar seating in the street 
  • City Inspectors will be working across the city to help businesses support social distancing guidelines and to respond to issues


Last updated: 4 July 2020