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UK moves to keep temporary outdoor dining areas introduced during Covid

The UK government intends to pass a law enabling operators to apply to keep extended outdoor seating areas first introduced in June 2020 to enable social distancing 

The proposed law change will free up businesses to serve food al fresco and attract diners all year round | Photo credit: Francais a Londres



UK hospitality businesses could soon benefit from new licensing laws enabling them to trade permanently from extended outdoor seating introduced during the pandemic. 

Extended outdoor seating, which was introduced as a temporary measure June 2020 to enable hospitality businesses to trade with social distancing, has already been extended until September 2022 and is expected to become permanent under new legislation announced in the Queen's Speech. 

Initially introduced by the UK government as a temporary measure during the pandemic to enable restaurants, cafés and bars to open and operate safely, temporary pavement licences for outdoor dining have been introduced as expected legislation in the Queen's Speech. 
 
Approximately one third of pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars have outside space to take advantage of the new alfresco dining laws.
 
The legislation will chime with the 58% of UK coffee shop consumers surveyed by World Coffee Portal in early 2022 who cited expanded outdoor seating as a measure introduced during the pandemic they’d like to see implemented in the longer term. 
 
The Queen's Speech, which marks the beginning of each parliamentary year in the UK, included several measures to give local authorities new power to rejuvenate high streets, including permanently extending temporary pavement licences which had already been extended until September. This will free up businesses to serve food al fresco and attract diners all year round.
 
However, as expected, the Queen’s Speech omitted several measures to improve hospitality workers’ rights in the UK, including for staff to keep all tips and improved flexible working rights.
 
It is believed that some 10,000 pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars closed during the pandemic, with World Coffee Portal data showing that Covid-19 wiped £3bn ($3.69) from the branded café market in the UK alone.
 
However, Project Café UK 2022 highlights that the UK's branded coffee shop market has regained 87% of pre-pandemic market value with outlet numbers now exceeding 2019 levels.

As of August last year, more than 3,300 fast track applications were lodged by British businesses to expand their footprint onto England’s streets.
 
A number of cities around the world introduced similar measures during the pandemic to help businesses operate safely. Due to the success of the emergency Open Restaurants Program during Covid-19, New York City is working to pass zoning law amendments to create a permanent Open Restaurants programme. Similarly, makeshift café terraces in Paris have become permanent summer fixtures of the French capital.

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