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More than 17,000 al fresco seats approved for England’s streets

·2-min read

Consumers have seen more than 17,000 extra al fresco seats on England’s streets within a year as part of a government strategy to help businesses recover from the pandemic.

Councils have approved requests for at least 17,045 more outdoor seats, mainly for pubs, bars and cafes, but also hairdressers, hotels, co-working spaces and luxury retailers, according to analysis by PwC.

The fast-tracked pavement licences are valid for between three and 12 months and were introduced by the UK government in July last year with the intention of helping businesses boost customer numbers outside and partially offset the impact of social distancing and indoor restrictions on takings.

At least 1,842 of 3,366 applications were made in March, April and May this year as the English road map unfolded.

Of the 3,366 applications tracked by PwC to June, 2,061 were approved, 350 rejected, 490 were pending and 11 withdrawn.

Hotspots include Westminster, which hosts more than 3,700 bars, restaurants and pubs and saw more than a third of total applications at 1,310, Kensington & Chelsea (442), Hackney (95) and Islington (74) in London.

Across the country, there was significant interest from Liverpool (348) Newcastle (103) and Bradford (54).

The absolute number of extra seats is likely to be markedly higher given the 490 pending applications and chairs data only being available for a third of applications.

One seat, or cover, at a casual dining restaurant or cafe can generate around £6,800 a year, PwC said.

The government has extended the provision of the permits until September 30 next year.

Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said: “The take-up of these pavement licences shows that for all forms of hospitality businesses, just how much effort they are making to keep going and how every penny counts, especially in times of financial stress.

“The last social distancing restrictions are lifting, but we’ve seen businesses encouraging customers to keep using their outdoor spaces.

“Some customers still feel more comfortable being outside, especially during the summer months, helping to allay any lingering concerns about meeting indoors.”

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