Council has waived fees for applications for extra outdoor space
Manchester is behind Liverpool on this. The city on the Mersey estuary announced a month ago a series of measures to help the hospitality industry. We covered that story on Liverpool Confidential, when in late May the city announced half a million pounds of grant funding for indie food and drink outlets to create quality outdoor spaces to help make up for the loss of space indoors due to you-know-what.
We need to save real jobs in real businesses. To most bars and restaurants that is ALL that matters right now
Manchester’s initiative this week doesn’t offer the cash but it’s still helpful. Bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants will be offered a ‘simplified online application process and fee waiver’ to apply for outdoor spaces to help reopen.
Most people are aware the hospitality industry will be hamstrung by social distancing rules even though the latter have been altered. People must now keep at least one metre apart, albeit with a recommendation that it’s better if the two metre-measure is maintained. Mind the gap still applies.
The knock-on from this is that internal areas of bars and restaurants are still going to prove problematic in both turning over enough income for businesses and also in terms of attracting risk averse customers. Thus, the logical step is to take things outside where all the evidence suggests it’s far more difficult to catch COVID-19, although things won't ever be as packed as our main picture here for a long while.
Apparently more than 30 businesses have asked the City’s licensing team for permission to open bigger terraces from Saturday 4th July and boost incomes by easing more people into safe spaces.
Here are a couple of quotes from the Manchester City Council.
Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “Although the rules are changing at the weekend that will allow the hospitality industry to begin reopening, we know that businesses with limited indoor space will continue to struggle without help. We have waived any licensing fees for temporary applications to use outside space to help businesses reassure their customers that they can visit safely and social distancing can still be adhered to. This will be a change for many people but we are glad to be playing our part to support a valued part of Manchester’s economy.”
The measures may mean more of the types of actions that have already taken place on Deansgate and Thomas Street to close off roads and turn them into exclusive zones for pedestrians and bikes and, with this measure, food and drink. Given its popularity, the Moon Under Water Wetherspoons on Deansgate will presumably apply for an extension of space for its food and drink offer. Crikey. Let's have a knees-up.
Cllr Angeliki Stogia - executive member for environment, planning and transport - said: “Manchester's vibrant and diverse retail and hospitality sector not only plays a pivotal role in the cultural heartbeat of our city, it also makes an enormous contribution to our economy as it employs many local people. It's also a cornerstone of contemporary Mancunian life, where families and friends gather to eat, drink and meet. To support the hospitality industry as it faces its biggest challenge yet we will look at making streets more people-friendly by supporting road closures, including in the city centre where space is at a premium so that people have as much space as they need to socially distance over the summer months.”
David Fox, of Tampopo restaurants, has three outdoor areas in the city centre (Piccadilly Gardens, Exchange Square and Albert Square). He agrees the new plan is helpful and would like things to go much further.
"This is the time to be bold," he said. "We need to save real jobs in real businesses. To most bars and restaurants that is all that matters right now. The temporary outdoor space initiative is welcomed and hopefully we can create our own iconic areas such as in New York, London and Berlin. As ever the challenge is turning the big idea into reality. Creating a decent outside area can cost tens of thousands. This is money many businesses may not have, that's why the Liverpool idea is important, providing actual cash."
Fox would like to remind the City Council of the some of the practical aspects of outdoor areas.
"At the moment," he says, "the Council will want us to bring all the furniture in every night. That costs. Storage is needed. That is limited. It rains. I personally am approaching them about Albert Square. I see no reason why we cannot have a cover that can we can leave out. This will require some of the licensing authorities to think differently, but by doing so they will save jobs and save businesses and for that they should be prepared to be bold."