We already knew about a campaign in the works to pedestrianise Soho this summer, making it into an outdoor dining destination and thereby helping its many restaurants and bars reopen for business. Soho Summer Street Festival is proposing to ban all cars from the central London district so that restaurants can spread outdoors. But now there’s an even bigger plan afoot, with Westminster city council looking to pedestrianise a great many streets across the whole of London’s West End to ensure the hospitality sector – which it describes as the ‘lifeblood’ of its economy – can spread outdoors.
From as early as July 4, some of central London’s busiest stretches – from St Martin’s Lane to Wardour Street and even Haymarket – could be closed off to traffic for parts of the day in order to make the West End into a giant outdoor dining district. The council is not only proposing the closure of some roads, but also the widening of pavements in areas to create space for tables and chairs.
As part of the plans, restaurants and bars would be allowed to serve customers from outdoors throughout the summer, as long as alfresco eating and drinking is done from tables and chairs and via table service. In the measures, bars and pubs would not be allowed to have customers standing outside for a drink (despite that being a great Soho summer tradition) unless they already have a licence in place for it. Customers would be allowed to enter restaurant premises to use its toilets, although the council may review this measure and the need to add temporary outdoor toilets in accordance with developing government guidelines.
Road closures have already kicked in throughout Covent Garden, and the trend looks set to spread to Soho, Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Paddington, Victoria and Mayfair if this plan gets approved.
Ordinarily, applications for licences so that businesses can serve customers outdoors as well as indoors would take some time to process, but the new measures would see businesses applying for a temporary event notice (TEN) to expedite a summer of outdoor fun.
Street closures are proposed in areas where there is a high density of food and drink retailers and plans are said to take residents into account. Westminster city council’s proposal is currently under review.
The council has suggested the following street closures, but says it welcomes submissions from smaller streets not included in current plans.
Henrietta Street, 11am-11pm
Maiden Lane, 11am-11pm
King Street, 11am-11pm
Floral Street, 11am-11pm
Southampton Street, 11am-11pm
Burleigh Street, 11am-11pm
St Martin’s Lane, 11am-11pm
St Martin’s Court, extension of outdoor seating
Edith Cavell Memorial, extension of outdoor seating
Mon-Fri 5–11pm, Sat noon–11pm, Sun noon–10.30pm
Old Compton Street
Upper James Street
Lisle Street, extension of outdoor seating
Gerrard Street, extension of outdoor seating
Newport Place, extension of outdoor seating
Wardour Street, widening of footway for cafés or restaurants between Chinatown gateway and Coventry Street
Cecil Court, extension of outdoor seating
Irving Street, timed closure of road – with restaurant and bar seating in street outside the National Portrait Gallery
Leicester Square (gateway streets: Leicester Street, Leicester Place, Leicester Court, Bear Street and Cranbourn Alley), extension of outdoor seating
Panton Street, timed closure of road – between Oxenden Street to Haymarket
Jermyn Street, widening of footway
Haymarket, widening of footway
Market Place and Great Castle Street, 11am-7pm
James Street, between Oxford Street and Barrett Street or Wigmore Street, 11am-11pm or 5-11pm
New Quebec Street, timed closure of road
Chiltern Street, extension of outdoor seating
Portman Mews South, widening of footway up to Portman Street Junction
Dorset Street, widening of footway outside 52-55 Dorset Street
Seymour Street, widening of footway outside 8 Seymour Street
York Street, widening of footway outside 7 Baker Street
Baker Street, extension of outdoor seating outside 48-66 and 106 Baker Street
Blandford Street, widening of footway outside 44 Blandford Street
George Street (extended), widening of footway outside 19 Baker Street (George Street frontage), 17 George Street, 58-60 George Street and 88-90 George Street
Kendall Street, widening of footway on the north side of Kendall Street around Village Green and round into Titchbourne Street
Connaught Street, widening of footway on the south side of Connaught Street
Porchester Place, widening of footway
Seymour Place, widening of footway between Seymour Street and Upper Berkeley Street
George Street, widening of footway
Merchant Square, extension of outdoor seating
West End Quay, extension of outdoor seating
Paddington Central, extension of outdoor seating in area covering Kingdom Square, space below the Westway and eastern/northern rim of the amphitheatre.
See the plans for Soho Summer Street Festival.
Check out Covent Garden’s changes and the streets it’s already pedestrianised now shops are open.
Find all the latest social-distancing guidelines in London right now.