Many hospitality businesses are fearing for their futures after three years of interrupted trade, forced closures, a staff exodus and rising costs.
One thing they all seem to agree on is that additional outdoor seating was hugely beneficial for bringing in trade during the pandemic, and they’d like it back A.S.A.P.
Unfortunately, the temporary Covid rules that allowed for easy street closures and licenses have now expired – leaving some (but not all) struggling businesses at the mercy of the long-winded and expensive Highways application system.
So now, as summer approaches and some Northern Quarter venues are retaining their pavement seating by other means, Manchester businesses are making a concerted push to create change around the rules to level the playing field.
In a bid to support his own business and those of friends and neighbours nearby, Andy Young, the owner of the Northern Quarter dessert bar Black Milk Cereal, has launched a petition to bring back rules introduced during Covid that allow extra outdoor seating for hospitality – and hopes to have it in place by this summer.
Calling for these rules to be made permanent, he told The Manc that many of his neighbours are still struggling to recover, but that such a change would bring a huge boost in revenue and help people pay off Government loans.
At a count, he pointed out a number of streets that have been left behind this summer – including Ancoats’ Blossom Street, Houldsworth Street, Peter Street and Tarriff Street – as well as making reference to how the street closures benefitted those in Manchester’s Gay Village.
The petition, which went live on Thursday night, explains that hospitality businesses are still ‘hugely affected’ by the lasting impact of COVID.
It continues: “This is a revenue-neutral way to help them recover fiscally and pay off Government loans like Bounce Back, CIBLS, and Recover Loans.
“It also has a significant impact on local communities, with friends, families and loved ones able to enjoy food and drink outside in the sun.”
Currently, businesses need to apply – at a cost – for a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) or Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO), in order to trade on the street/road.
This process (unlike the temporary scheme legislation now revoked by Parliament) also requires a full consultation and planning consent, which can take a significant amount of time. Time that many feel they don’t have.
Black Milk is not the only business to have been making noise about the need for the extension of Covid outdoor seating rules this summer.
Nearby bar Alvarium’s owners made headlines just last week after sharing a heartfelt plea, in which they warned ‘the consequences could be detrimental’ if they are not granted a road closure this summer.
Speaking to The Manc about the need for more outdoor seating, Alvarium owner Braddan Quayle said: “For me, it’s an absolute no-brainer.
“It saved a lot of businesses and more importantly a lot of jobs over the pandemic and as we discussed we’re still suffering from a hangover which has been said by people like Sacha Lord could take up to five years so why are we not being given the tools to prosper?
“We would have to pay for tables and chairs licenses so the local council would recoup some of the money back that they’ve had to spend, so like I say it’s a no brainer and it’s frustrating that nothing is being done about it and shunting the blame onto Westminster is not an answer and no, unfortunately, shouldn’t be an answer either.”
The petition reads in full: “Due to Covid the Government relaxed rules for restaurants, cafes and bars to get licences for outdoor seating, and also rules for local authorities to make Traffic Orders, including closing roads to enable outdoor hospitality. We want these changes made permanent, to support hospitality businesses.
“Provisions relating to outdoor table & chairs licences expire later this year, and relaxed rules for making Traffic Orders to put seating on roads have already fallen. We want both made permanent in time for this summer.
“Hospitality businesses are still hugely affected by the lasting impact of COVID.
“This is a revenue neutral way to help them recover fiscally and pay off Government loans like Bounce Back, CIBLS, and Recover Loans.
“It also has a significant impact on local communities, with friends, families and loved ones able to enjoy food and drink outside in the sun.
“Summer is coming; please act urgently to save it for small businesses. Sign this petition.”
If you want to sign the petition, you can do so here. If it reaches 10,000 signatures it will be responded to by Parliament and if it reaches 100,000 it will be considered for debate.
Feature image – Black Milk / Alvarium