With many hospitality businesses hanging by a thread, a new government bill to enable al-fresco dining and drinking is very welcome.
A Business and Planning Bill is being published by ministers today and will undoubtedly help the very survival of many of our pubs and restaurants threatened with closure as a result of the coronavirus.
We have already seen closures in the region of restaurants like Rick Stein’s in Marlborough.
And today, we heard that the four-star Ston Easton Park Hotel, near Radstock in Somerset has appointed administrators and will close with immediate effect as a result of the impact of coronavirus.
Today’s Bill, which we will know the details of later today, will now make it easier for local authorities to turn streets over to restaurant and cafe businesses struggling to cope with social distancing indoors.
The Bill will be fast tracked through the Commons within a week so that the normal planning red tape will vanish allowing these hospitality businesses to open al-fresco in time for Saturday 4 July.
At present, there is a 28-day consultation for permission to set up tables and chairs outside, which is now being cut to five days.
And every venue with an alcohol licence will be given the right to sell beer and wine for people to drink on the pavement or street.
The government is also going to allow outdoor markets, pop up car boot sales and summer fairs without the need for planning permission.
And government is also going to work with councils to pedestrianise parts of city and town centres which will also help retailers in their coronavirus recovery.
John Hirst, Chief Executive of Destination Bristol, supports the bill and comments:
"In my role as Chief Executive of Destination Bristol I fully support the overall proposal.
"We need to do all we can to support businesses during this very difficult time.
"I think the opportunity to be flexible needs to be applauded and I hope that all relevant businesses can take the opportunity to maximise the chance to recover during this period
"My only reservation is that everything we do needs to be done within specific guidelines to ensure that we do not create any additional problems.
"Let us hope that we have a long and hot summer and that it will work well for everyone."
Similarly, Justin Britchford, Deputy Chair of InSwindon BID and Chair of Pubwatch in the town, welcomed the new Bill and said:
“This is great news for the industry. We just now need clarity and what is expected of us.
“As far as I am aware our council, has already been working on this.
“Personally, I think 50 percent of the population are desperate to get out and have a drink and something to eat while the other 50 percent are still very nervous and cautious about the virus.”