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Government Further Relaxes Outdoor Dining Rules Ahead of Reopening

Restaurants and pubs will be able to erect temporary spaces outside without planning permission

Diners sit at tables on a closed Soho street in summer 2020
Diners in Soho in August 2020
Michaël Protin/Eater London

New measures will allow restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars to erect outdoor dining structures without planning permission for the entire summer. The government will remove planning requirements in a bid to increase the number of places allowed to open after coronavirus lockdown on 12 April, the current date for the resumption of outdoor dining.

The measures are part of a “Welcome Back Fund” of £56 million, according to Big Hospitality, with an estimated 9,000 businesses set to benefit from the relaxed rules, which will also allow temporary outdoor dining structures to stay up all summer, instead of the current 28 days. These temporary planning terms will join longer-established outdoor dining initiatives like that of Westminster Council in London, which will reprise its scheme from summer 2020 which saw tables on the streets of Chinatown, Soho, Fitzrovia, and Covent Garden.

A guide to outdoor dining always needs a corollary guide to outdoor dining when it’s raining, and one of restaurants’ and pubs’ biggest concerns is reliance on outdoor trade in a month best known for its showers. But the other biggest concern is a consequence of the government outsourcing the enforcement and funding of what constitutes “outdoor” dining to local councils: Inconsistency. The U.K. has seen fewer outdoor dining structures that are simply temporary buildings than America, with igloos in San Francisco and greenhouses in New York City, but restaurateurs from chain Coppa Club and a new London “multi-experiential space” Chameleon have ironically recently testified to changing regulations in different conditions causing problems.

More soon as the reopening date approaches.

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