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Government Thinks Emulating European Dining Culture Is a Coronavirus Quick Fix

Boris Johnson is planning to permit outdoor stall trade for restaurants and pubs this summer

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Tarragona, Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica, public square and outdoor cafe Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The government is planning to permit some pubs and restaurants to sell food and drink outside their premises, before they are tentatively slated to begin reopening in early July. The Guardian reports that ministers hope this measure will elicit a “more vibrant style of continental town centres in the summer.”

A report in the Telegraph yesterday revealed that the proposal, led by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, would allow businesses that are already licensed to have tables and chairs outside to set up “market-style stalls” in the next few weeks. It is being billed as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s overall strategy for “reviving high streets” and giving the likes of restaurants the chance to trade — when they’re unable to offer takeaway — before they can reopen their dining rooms.

The idea is predicated on the fact that the transmission rate of coronavirus is believed to be lower outside and this proposal is more likely to resemble a street food market than it is an Italian piazza: queuing and collection over table service. Food markets are already allowed to trade in the U.K., so long as they comply with hygiene and social distancing practices.

The move, which might appeal to the European romantic in the Eurosceptic soul of government, may appease some business owners and give them then chance to generate cash-flow when there has been none for two months. For most, though, this is not a solution. Restaurant business models rely on footfall, turnover, and the ability to apply margins for the full service and experience they provide. For that, they need their dining rooms. Or, at the very least, the weather.