London’s hoppiest stretch could be the next part of London to transform into an al fresco destination, if its arch-dwelling breweries have anything to do with it. Some of the Bermondsey Beer Mile’s taprooms, bars and businesses are coming together to propose weekend road closures to Southwark Council, a move that could see drinkers and diners occupying tables and chairs outside venues this summer.
Following the lead of Soho, a handful of the hospitality and brewing companies that line Druid Street are calling for the measures in order to allow safer social distancing for customers and staff when reopening, and to increase footfall for struggling venues now operating at a reduced capacity.
The proposal is for a Saturday road closure for Druid Street between noon and 8pm, normally the area’s peak time for custom from curious beer lovers exploring the taprooms that open on a Saturday. Leading the charge in the #SaveTheMile campaign is Hawkes cidery, whose founder Simon Wright says that customer numbers have more than halved since reopening.
‘Pre-lockdown we could have over 1,000 people through the door on a Saturday. We knew that had to change to be safe. The new proposal for Saturday outdoor seating will seat people in safe socially distanced groups in the open air and better control the flow of people in the area,’ said Wright. A petition has now been set up as part of the pedestrianisation campaign.
The move has also had backing from St John Bakery, the Marquis of Wellington pub, plus neighbouring breweries London Beer Factory and Anspach & Hobday. Co-founder of Anspach & Hobday brewery Jack Hobday said: ‘Even with on-trade reopening, our capacity and takings are right down after months with no income. Pedestrianisation is a great opportunity to create something that works for the customers, supports businesses and creates safety for the local community.’
However, not all breweries on the Bermondsey Beer Mile have been enthusiastic about opening up to punters again. The Affinity Brew Co – which last week announced it would be leaving the Beer Mile for good to set up a brewpub in Stockwell instead – had openly expressed its concerns for staff and customer safety once the government announced bars could reopen. And The Kernel, Partizan and Cloudwater taprooms are among those that remain closed.
With the Beer Mile known to attract craft-beer-loving tourists on bar crawls, a reluctance is understandable. Having said that, the taprooms that have reopened have booking systems and rules on total capacity in place that might deter even the most organised bar-crawl leader.