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Helping restaurants and cafes make the most of outdoor space safely when restrictions ease

Posted: 30th March 2021

The City of Edinburgh Council is supporting the hospitality sector to help it make the most of outdoor space safely when lockdown restrictions ease in late April.

A number of measures have been agreed, including waiving charges for outdoor area occupation permits (for tables and chairs) until the end of the summer season.

Under the current roadmap for relaxing Covid measures in Scotland hospitality businesses will be able to operate within restricted hours from 26 April. Outdoor hospitality, with alcohol, will be permitted until 10pm, while food but can be served indoors, without alcohol, until an 8pm closing time.

From this date, outdoor socialising rules will also be relaxed so that a maximum of six adults from three households can meet up.

To help hospitality businesses recover more quickly, the Council has agreed that fees will be waived for outdoor area occupation permits until at least 30 September 2021.

This measure will apply across the city meaning all Edinburgh hospitality businesses are eligible, provided they apply for and obtain the relevant road occupation permit.  Where appropriate, kerbside parking charges will also be suspended to accommodate outdoor area occupation permits.

In addition, the Council has been working very closely with Essential Edinburgh to help create more space for businesses to operate outdoors in the George Street / BID area, with proposals to close sections of George Street and reconfigure kerbside space, with kerbside parking suspended.

The proposals would see the sections from Charlotte Square to Castle Street and Castle Street to Frederick Street closed in their entirety (excepting disabled and emergency access, counter-terrorism measures, loading and cycle lanes) similar to past ‘event’ arrangements on the street such as the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

A Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) and the associated liaison with local businesses, Essential Edinburgh and the George Street Association, among other stakeholders, would be required to facilitate this event setting. If there is an appetite for these closures to go ahead, it’s anticipated they could be delivered within six to eight weeks of an initial TTRO application.

Council Leader Adam McVey said

It’s been an incredibly tough year for the hospitality sector so we’ve been listening carefully to what businesses need and doing whatever we can to help them recover as safely and sustainably as possible as things start to ease up restrictions-wise.

We’ve been working really closely with Essential Edinburgh and other businesses and organisations to develop these proposals to help traders make the most of outdoor space and safely cater to as many people as possible over the brighter spring and summer months.

It’s very important we strike the right balance, to make sure we’re not inadvertently making life more difficult for others. That’s why it’ll be key for Essential Edinburgh and other organisations to get the buy-in of affected businesses in the plans and discussions. That will ensure that interventions get as wide as possible support and benefit as many traders as possible.

Throughout this crisis we’ve been doing as much as we can to support businesses in the city centre and right across the city so that we can help Edinburgh build back better. This work with the hospitality sector is the latest strand of that work and we’ll continue to work with all sectors to protect jobs and aid their recovery.

Depute Council Leader Cammy Day said:

After such a long time staying at home, people will be champing at the bit to get out into the warmer weather and meet up safely with their friends and family again as restrictions start to relax later this month. Last summer we waived tables and chairs permit fees to help restaurants and bars make the most of outdoor space so we want to give the sector the same lift this time round too.

Attracting more people to these outdoor hospitality areas will also boost footfall for surrounding retail businesses as they reopen their doors. People will look forward to planning a trip into town or to their local high street for a bite to eat and a browse round the shops, giving a much longed-for lift to our local traders. Hospitality and retail are the lifeblood of our communities, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and the wider economy, so it’s vital we help them get back on their feet as quickly as they can.

Roddy Smith, CEO of Essential Edinburgh, said:

We welcome the support that the Council are giving the city’s hospitality businesses both in the provision of outdoor space and the waiving of costs. It is imperative that we maximise the space available to allow hospitality to operate effectively as we adapt to the changing roadmap regulations. The Council has listened to the business community and is acting quickly, for which we are very appreciative.

Supporting business and retaining jobs is a key priority for the Council as the pandemic continues. So far, the Council has administered more than £181.4 million in grants to over 19,000 businesses.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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