Some positive news for pubs, cafes and restaurants
The view is bleak for many businesses at the moment, perhaps more so for those in the hospitality sector, who may (as I write) be ordered to close their doors to the public once again, until further notice. Even if the impending lockdown, due to the sheer number of Omicron cases and how fast the mutation is spreading across the UK, is short and sweet—i.e. a ‘circuit breaker’ approach to try and slow down the variant—it will still have a devastating effect on a sector that’s still trying to get to its feet after two years of limited trading.
There is a little good news for some businesses in this sector, though. For those with some land/outdoor space, the need to attain planning permission (i.e. ‘permitted development rights’) from their local council office, if they wished to erect marquees, gazebos or any other type of temporary shelter, will not be necessary for a little while longer.
Similarly, councils used to have to apply for planning permission if they wanted to hold an outdoor market, but this is another red tape decision that’s been waived until the subject is reviewed again in December 2022.
Omicron has reminded us that Covid is not going anywhere, and it therefore makes sense to allow those businesses with outdoor space that could house patrons to be put to that very use. We know that Covid is less transmissible outdoors, but unfortunately, we live in a country where the weather can vary widely from season to season. However safe it may be in terms of Covid for people to sit and enjoy a meal outside, it’s not as appealing in Spring or Autumn, when temperatures can be up and down from one day to the next. Providing shelter whilst still upholding everyone’s safety could help businesses suffering in this sector reap some much-needed revenue.
This relaxation of the rules was brought in to help the hospitality sector last year, just before the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative was launched, and feedback has shown it helped hospitality businesses adapt their spaces to better suit their offering and whatever Covid restrictions were in force at the time.
During this period, in my area and for the same reason, cafes and restaurants were allowed to place seats outside their establishments and spread onto pavements/into pedestrianised areas (as long as, in doing so, they didn’t impeach the public’s access). Whether these businesses will be allowed to do so again without also having to apply for permission is unclear, though this does seem to fall under the same remit as the scenarios above.
Until the virus shows signs of dying out, alfresco dining and outdoor events may be the only way we can ensure our safety whilst clinging to some semblance of a normal social life. In the sunnier parts of Europe, this is the norm as residents and visitors alike enjoy the warm climate. In Britain, as you know, we can’t guarantee any sunny days, and as such, we may have to adapt to spending our social time outdoors in less-than-ideal weather until we have the virus under control. Decisions such as this, which allow eateries and pubs to provide shelter to their patrons from the rain and wind, could give these businesses greater financial stability whilst giving us the chance to mix with other people outside of our household, whatever Covid throws at us next.
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