Campaign to pedestrianise Soho to ‘give restaurants’ a chance

A campaign has been launched to pedestrianise Soho and allow restaurants to use outdoor seating.

The Government has said restaurants should be able to reopen on July 4, but social distancing measures will be in place.

This means many establishments will lose tables, and therefore custom (and staff), thereby reducing already slim profit margins.

Many in the industry feel social distancing, while necessary due to Covid-19, could mean mass closures – Soho Street Festival 2020 could provide a better chance at survival.

The campaign, set up by John James, MD of Soho Estates, has already seen widespread support from in and outside the industry.

James predicts that at “least a third of existing restaurants would not survive another quarter” without help.

“This is about survival,” James told Harden’s. “We need to give businesses an opportunity. It will be temporary, and will help make up for lost covers inside.

“This will be carefully managed – people shouldn’t worry. We want to see Soho come out of this fighting. It’s the heart of London’s restaurant scene. We want to come out of lockdown and give restaurants a chance, and protect jobs.”

He has proposed to pedestrianise main roads in the area, such as Greek Street, Old Compton Street, and Frith Street, between 8am – 11pm until September, to give bars and restaurants space to trade outside so they can stay in business while keeping customers safe.

The likes of Stephen Fry, Damien Hirst, Bill Nighy, and Chrissie Hynde have already lent their support.

Westminster Council said it is actively looking into the plans. Some residents oppose the idea, fearing additional noise and litter as a result.

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