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Central London’s Outdoor Dining Scheme Will Return for 2021

Westminster Council will reprise plans that brought tables to the streets of Soho, Chinatown, Covent Garden, and Oxford Circus

London’s Chinatown with outdoor tables in the streets for restaurants reopening after coronavirus lockdown
Outdoor dining in Chinatown in summer 2020
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Restaurants in Chinatown, Soho, Oxford Circus, and Leicester Square will once again be able to put tables on the streets, with Westminster Council announcing the reprise of its outdoor dining permits that were a boon to the area throughout summer and autumn 2020. As before, the measures will cover 60 streets across Soho, Fitzrovia, Chinatown, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Paddington, and Marylebone. Closures vary by area, from 11 a.m — 11 p.m. in Covent Garden to 5p.m. — 11 p.m. in Soho on weekdays. The proposals will see the outdoor dining set-up last until at least September 2021, with the council considering ways in which it might become a permanent fixture.

The council made the announcement in the wake of Boris Johnson’s “roadmap” for reopening restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars after coronavirus lockdown, which includes resuming outdoor dining from 12 April. With indoor dining not slated to return until 17 May, the provision of outdoor space will be critical — particularly for restaurants in central areas, whose tight premises will be particularly restricted by social distancing restrictions come May. Or, in the words of one storied Fitzrovia coffee shop who broke the announcement: “YASSS!”

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.

More soon on further outdoor dining initiatives for 2021.