Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

Soho restaurants now face £100,000 bill to let people outside

Westminster City Council has angered hospitality businesses after it emerged it was planning to charge thousands of pounds in fees to continue operating outside.

Firms will have to pay a daily rate of £7 per square metre for the space they use outside when the current  ‘al fresco’ scheme ends on October 31, City A.M reported. 

A law had been extended last month to allow dining on the streets in London’s West End as a way of helping restaurants, bars and coffee shops which were hit financially by the pandemic. 

But the new charges could now see some firms paying as much as £100,000 a year in fees.

Owner of coffee shop Kaffeine Peter Dore-Smith told City A.M the charge was a ‘real kick in the guts’ during a time where Covid-19 restrictions have hurt the industry.

He said: ‘This is an across the board charge, it does not matter what street you are in, what hours you operate, what you serve, what price point you have, nothing.

‘It is ridiculous and every person I speak to cannot believe it.’

Westminster City Council confirmed it would be charging companies for running the scheme but added it had already spent more than £2 million on supporting al fresco dining across the city.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are asking businesses to make a contribution to cover part of the costs of running these schemes. 

‘We think this is the right way to help our world-famous hospitality sector while also being fair to our residents who have to pick up the bill for the remaining costs of these schemes through their council tax.’

The details of the fees were contained in a document named ‘Supporting Westminster’s hospitality sector during the winter’, which was seen by City A.M.

It added hospitality businesses would need to re-apply for pavement licences at the end of the month which could take up to two weeks to be issued.

The Business and Planning Bill was introduced in July to make it easy for pubs to use car parks as beer gardens, and for streets to be transformed into outdoor markets, in order to give floundering businesses a much-needed boost.

The new law loosened restrictions and allowed outdoor trading without the need for planning permission, and saw the country build a summer café culture as often seen in Continental Europe.

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