Wera calls for ‘safe street culture.’

Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse, has secured cross-party support in calling on the Government to pave the way for more cafes, restaurants and bars to use closed roads to enable social distancing between customers – keeping businesses open and people in work.

Writing to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the cross-party group warned of the economic cost Covid-19 has had on the hospitality sector and urged the Government to “ensure that businesses and local authorities have the confidence and support they need to plan for the creation of a safe street café culture.”

The intervention led by the local MP, and coinciding with English Tourism Week, come as a 10th of hospitality business polled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said fear for their cash reserves and risk collapsing within weeks.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said:

“Countless restaurants, pubs and hotels are facing financial hardship because of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. I fear for the economic impact for communities across the country, particularly the loss of people’s livelihoods.

“The Government must urgently resolve the gaps in their plans, including addressing social distancing requirements across the hospitality sector by embracing a new street cafe culture.

“Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby streets and other open-air spaces would give confidence to both businesses and customers.

“While there needs to be local discretion, ensuring that any plans are suitable for different areas and resident groups, Ministers should look at international examples and act now to save jobs.”

Jane Campbell-Howard, the owner of the Society Café in central Bath, said:

“We’d be delighted with any initiative that would help us welcome back our lovely customers more safely.

“Spacing is obviously the main issue for us and all of our friends in the hospitality business. Having more space in which to seat customers would give us, and everyone else in our industry, the opportunity to slowly and very carefully re-emerge from this lockdown, and would help customers to enjoy hospitality more safely, throughout summer.”

Chris Addey, the owner of the café 8e Chelsea Road in Bath, said:

“Cafe’s like 8e Chelsea Road are social hubs. Under lockdown, communities have lost much more than a place to drink coffee – they’ve lost their hearts. Regenerating this café culture, therefore, takes on the added significance of trying to kick-start society.

“Key for café owners like me, will be how we adapt to social distancing constraints through innovative use of space, particularly outdoor space.”

For your further information:

Apparently, the Lithuanian capital Vilnius is to be turned into an ‘open-air cafe’, with businesses allowed to use nearby plazas, squares and streets free of charge.

More details can be found here:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/28/lithuanian-capital-to-be-turned-into-vast-open-air-cafe-vilnius

    Australia has also allowed restaurants and cafes to open but have initially limited the number of people dining inside to 10, causing some to reportedly say it isn’t worth their while to re-open at this stage.

Please see the cross-party letter below.

Dear Robert,

In recognition of English Tourism Week, we are writing to urge you to support the creation of a new ‘street café culture’ as the hospitality sector is slowly reopened. This would support cafes and restaurants reopen, while maintaining social distancing guidelines. English tourism is a vital part of the UK economy, generating £106 billion a year and supporting 2.6 million jobs, which includes a high proportion of school leavers and young people.

The Covid-19 Pandemic have hit these sectors extremely hard. The Prime Minister has outlined that he hopes to reopen parts of the hospitality sector by July, subject to meeting the Government’s conditions.

We need to ensure that public health is the first priority in the Government’s planned reopening of these sectors. Even once it is safe and they are permitted to open, cafes and restaurants will need to operate at a reduced capacity to enable social distancing. For many, this will mean their businesses are no longer viable.

By embracing a new street café culture, with more covers outside, the Government can help cafes and restaurants to stay afloat while maintaining social distancing measures. Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby, closed streets and open-air spaces would provide some much-needed support to protect jobs and keep people safe.

It is of course important that plans are suitable for each area and its residents, and so local discretion will be required. The Government must allow businesses to place tables and chairs outside premises, provided that they have local authority consent and that this does not cause an obstruction to people with reduced mobility. We must ensure that businesses and local authorities have the confidence and support they need to plan for the creation of a safe street café culture.

This is an opportunity to make long-lasting changes, expanding UK café culture beyond the recovery phase. Widened pavements and increased pedestrian areas will not only help transform our town and city centres into cleaner, healthier spaces, but will support local economies and business to adapt to the changing needs of the high street.

We urge the Government to consider this proposal and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in further detail.

Yours sincerely,

Wera Hobhouse MP

Alistair Carmichael MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Daisy Cooper MP

Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey MP

Tim Farron MP

Andrew Gwynne MP

Sir George Howarth MP

Christine Jardine MP

Kim Johnson MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Layla Moran MP

Sarah Olney MP

Virendra Sharma MP

Jamie Stone MP

Munira Wilson MP

Mohammad Yasin MP