Westminster Council has asked hospitality venues in Soho to implement a ‘no seat, no service’ policy after the reopening of restaurants, pubs and bars saw hordes of revellers on streets and on pavements, many apparently failing to observe appropriate social distancing guidelines.
The council said to strategy would help avoid overcrowding in streets and said “now is not the time for street parties”.
The council made the request as it announced updated rules ahead of this weekend in the hope of seeing a better implementation of safety measures. While hospitality businesses have been allowed to reopen, Covid-19 remains.
The authority said that last week saw “certain streets in Soho experience isolated issues with crowding and concerns about maintaining social distancing” and added that it will use “all enforcement powers open to us” to ensure public safety.
In response to the issues seen in the early stages of relaunch council officers will be visiting bars and restaurants to enforce “a clear message of no licence, no trade”. Enclosures will also be installed around outdoor seating areas in central locations with venues responsible for their own ‘alfresco areas’.
Councillor Matthew Green, cabinet member for business and planning, said: “Last weekend we saw a vast reopening of London’s most famous hospitality areas, with a large majority showing a safe and successful example of the new normal for the city’s bars, cafés, and restaurants.
“At the same time, we saw isolated instances of crowding in some of our busier areas. This is something that cannot happen again as we must ensure the safety of the public as a result of the Covd-19 pandemic.
“As we look ahead to this weekend, we will be ramping up efforts to remind venues of their responsibilities and the licensing rules. We also want to encourage visitors to the West End to enjoy the outdoor spaces provided by the council to bars and restaurants in safety and not to drink shop-bought alcohol on the streets.
“Let me be clear: there is no festival in Soho. Social distancing is still in place and now is not the time for street parties but for everyone to play their part in supporting the safe reopening of hospitality businesses that have been hard hit.
“Public safety is paramount and if these temporary plans don’t work, we won’t hesitate to go back to the drawing board, which we are sure no one wants to happen. So let’s all work together and keep the West End and Soho in particular safe and open.”