The Handlebar Oxford

Oxford City Council has provided new funding to help restaurants, cafes and pubs open outdoor seating areas across the city.

The £65,000 funding pot aims to allow hospitality businesses to apply for grants of up to £3,250 to help with the cost of reopening outdoors from 12 April.

George Street last year when the lockdown was lifted

This will cover costs such as partially closing roads or buying and/or moving street furniture, as many do not have outdoor dining areas.

“Oxford’s restaurants, cafes and pubs are a vital part of the city’s economy, atmosphere and culture, and provide thousands of jobs , so it is extremely important to support their re-opening”

Councillor Tom Hayes said: “The Government’s decision to allow restaurants, cafes and pubs to reopen outdoor dining areas on 12 April is fantastic for rural pubs with large gardens, but could be a challenge for businesses in Oxford, particularly in the city centre.

“We want to do what we can to support Oxford’s restaurants, cafes and pubs to reopen on 12 April if they feel they can, so, where possible, we are reinstating the schemes to create outdoor dining areas and launching funding to help businesses create seating areas themselves.

The new space outside Jericho Cafe

“Oxford’s restaurants, cafes and pubs are a vital part of the city’s economy, atmosphere and culture, and provide thousands of jobs for Oxford and Oxfordshire residents, so it is extremely important that we do what we can to support them opening and get our economy moving again.”

On 12 April, the Government will enable hospitality businesses to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown, but only to serve customers sitting outside. This means many businesses in Oxford – particularly in and around the city centre – will not be able to reopen because they do not have outdoor dining areas.

“We feel incredibly grateful to have had this lifeline thrown to us”

The Government will not allow indoor dining areas to reopen until 17 May at the earliest.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, has been pedestrianising and part-pedestrianising streets across Oxford over the last year to provide space for certain types of outdoor dining areas as a temporary measure to contribute to the recovery.

George Street pedestrianised seating

These outdoor dining areas – including Cornmarket Street, St Michael’s Street, Broad Street, Dawson Street, Observatory Street and North Parade Avenue, plus a number of individual areas on wider pavements – will be able to reopen on 12 April.

Other schemes for outdoor seating in other key city centre roads are also being considered.

The Plough at 38 in Oxford city centre

Businesses aiming to reopen on 12 April must register their interest in accessing funds from the grant pot by Sunday 28 March.

Jane Campbell-Howard, owner of Society Café in St Michael’s Street, said: “The City Council has really thought outside of the box in envisaging the best way to get Oxford back on its feet. We can’t wait to start welcoming and serving people again.”

Cafe Coco and Kaz bar’s outdoor seating area on Dawson Street

Ruth Dorso, owner of The Jericho Café, said: “Last summer Oxford City Council enabled us to create an outdoor dining area for our customers on Observatory Street.

“We feel incredibly grateful to have had this lifeline thrown to us as it will enable us to reopen earlier. We can’t wait to welcome our amazing customers back to the café again and hope that they will enjoy their brunches on our new terrace whilst soaking up some much needed spring sunshine.”

In addition, businesses can also open outside seating areas on pavements wide enough to accommodate tables and chairs, and pedestrians maintaining social distancing as carried out in a range of places including Friars Entry, Grenoble Road, High Street, Banbury Road, Park End Street, and Walton Street.

For more information and to apply, businesses can go to www.oxford.gov.uk/outdoorseating

SARAH EDWARDS

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