As the Government prepares to allow hospitality businesses to open the Liverpool Without Walls projects will see restaurants and cafes serve customers outside through the summer. Tony McDonough reports
Bold Street and Castle Street in Liverpool city centre will be closed to traffic during the summer in a bid to allow restaurants and cafes to serve customers in the open air.
Liverpool City Council, Liverpool BID Company and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce have joined forces on the £450,000 Liverpool Without Walls project, with the aim of supporting the hospitality sector as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown.
Consultation is taking place with businesses and transport providers to work out the most appropriate timing for closures of Bold Street and Castle Street. The project will also include pop up parks, architecturally designed furniture, a business grant scheme and free trading permits.
It looks increasingly likely the Government will allow restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels to open in early July with a possible relaxing of the social distancing rule from two metres to just one. However, even a one-metre presents a challenge for many hospitality businesses,
As well as seeing periods of closure, Bold Street will be the pilot for a new scheme of street furniture and ‘parklets’. Designed by urban architects Arup, these new seating and park areas will take over existing parking bays to transform the look of the street and, if successful, could be rolled out to other streets across the city.
Castle Street will also be closed to traffic to maximise the space available for restaurants to spill out onto the streets.
All independent restaurants in the city can now apply for a grant of up to £4,000 for them to purchase furniture which will allow them to trade outside, with the level of grant depending on the number of additional seats each restaurant can create.
There is a limit to this fund and restaurants are urged to take the time to see if they are eligible for the support. The fee for a new street café licence – around £600 – is being waived for all new applications to ensure businesses don’t have extra costs as they aim to get back on their feet.
The furniture installation on Bold Street will be taking place throughout early July with the rollout of additional seating expected throughout the summer. Consultation has taken place with some of the independent traders in the area about the designs and the changes.
Care will also be taken to make sure the changes take account of accessibility and do not adversely impact on, for example, wheelchair users.
Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for culture and tourism, Cllr Wendy Simon, said: “This is a phased approach to the reopening of the hospitality sector and these changes will be made gradually as we work with businesses on what they need, and how we can support them in line with the latest Government safety guidance.
The funding for the scheme was announced last month by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson who redirected £450,000 of funds to allow the programme to be developed. The council has so far distributed more than £90m of central government funding to over 7,300 small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
Chief executive of Liverpool BID Company and chair of the Liverpool Visitor Economy Network, Bill Addy, added: “With road closures, parking bay suspensions, social distancing guidelines and ensuring accessibility, this is a very complicated piece of work, but I think this is the start of revolution in how we use the city centre.
“I know lots of restaurants are desperate to open their doors and I wish we could help every single one of them in this first phase, but we need to be measured and realistic in our roll out so we can get this right and in turn support more and more businesses over the coming weeks.”
Click here to find out more about how you can apply for furniture and a street café licence.