Since March the coronavirus lockdown has proved devastating for the hospitality sector but Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is launching a £450,000 project to boost independent businesses. Tony McDonough reports
Bars and restaurants in Liverpool with city will be able to maximise outdoor spaces to maintain social distance in a £450,000 plan unveiled by the city council.
Since the Government imposed a coronavirus lockdown in March, many businesses in Liverpool’s hospitality sector have feared for their futures. Even with Government support packages many are in dire financial straits.
Now, as the Government starts looking to gradually ease the lockdown over the summer, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is keen to make it as easy as possible for bars and restaurants to utilise outdoor spaces.
Working with Liverpool BID Company – which supports 1,500 businesses in the city centre – and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as with a collection of creatives and designers, the fund will be used to help local independent businesses, in areas such as Castle Street, redesign outdoor spaces.
The aim will be to turn them into high quality covered seating areas to make up for the internal space they are losing as a result of social distancing restrictions. In a move which is believed to be the first of its type in the country, it will ensure many independent bars and restaurants are able to continue trading safely.
The easing of restrictions on bars and restaurants is not expected until early July, but the city is keen to start getting itself ready to be as accessible and safe as possible in the coming months.
The funding is separate to, but will be aligned with, a Government allocation of £443,000 for Liverpool from the Reopening High Streets Safety Fund which can be used for things such as signage, street markings and marketing campaigns.
And the announcement is in addition to £2m committed earlier this month to install seven pop-up cycle routes, to encourage people to use sustainable means of transport to get around, rather than public transport or their car.
Details of the criteria for the fund are being finalised and the process for being part of the pilot project will be announced in mid-June, once the phased reopening of retail in the city has begun and the impact been assessed.
The money is coming from existing budgets, by repurposing capital spending to give businesses practical support for the COVID-19 emergency and alleviate the impact on the local economy.
Mayor Anderson said: “Liverpool is the most welcoming city in the UK, and bringing people together is what we do best. Big events, sporting fixtures or just a night out, this city thrives on social interaction.
“The fact that is out of the question with social distancing, means we have to be innovative about how we keep our USP, but do so in a responsible way. We need to find a way to give local people confidence that they can continue to go out to eat, spend money in the local economy and have a good time safely.
“This is really important as we know that tourism is going to be badly affected by international travel restrictions. Small, independent traders do not have the financial reserves or the borrowing power of big corporate companies.
“It is up to us to come together and find ways to give them a helping hand through what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of my lifetime.”