Outdoor dining to become permanent fixture in Covent Garden and St John’s Wood

Residents supported the continuation of Al Fresco dining in their areas

Al fresco dining is set to become a permanent fixture in parts of central London, following a local vote.

Over 80 percent of residents in Covent Garden and St. John’s Wood supported the continuation of outdoor dining in their area, after a month-long consultation run by Westminster Council.

Al fresco dining proved to be very popular with local residents and businesses during the pandemic, when the council supported nearly 900 licenced businesses by providing them with space for outdoor dining.

During the summer, around 60 streets benefited from either pavement widening, temporary closure of roads and parking bays to allow tables and chairs to be set-up for outdoor restaurant seating in the street.

Al fresco dining will become permanent on St John’s Wood High Street, Henrietta Street, King Street, Maiden Lane and parts of Southampton Street in Covent Garden.

Al Fresco has been ‘lifeline’ for businesses

Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, said: “Covent Garden has always been one of London’s top destinations for hospitality and St. John’s Wood offers world-class eateries on a bustling local high street.”

“We’re really pleased that residents and businesses have voted in favour of keeping al fresco. Thanks to residents and businesses working together, Westminster is proud to be able to support the continuation of outdoor dining in these areas.

“We are committed to supporting our local communities to bounce back from the pandemic. Al fresco has been and continues to be a lifeline for businesses in the West End.

“This summer, we created more than 16,000 additional covers across the city – the highest number in London – helping to save countless businesses and jobs in Covent Garden and across Westminster.

“There are some consultations which are still ongoing, and we will continue to work with local communities and businesses as we explore permanent schemes.”

‘Strong local support for transforming high street’

As part of the consultation, it was agreed that on St. John’s Wood High Street, the current measures-a one-way system and pavement widening- will remain in place.

Dick Schumacher, chairman of the St. John’s Wood Society, said: “The consultation results confirm what I’ve sensed from conversations with residents over the last year, that there is strong local support for transforming our High Street with wider pavements and permanent outdoor dining space.”

Residents want a high street that is greener and more pedestrian friendly, but still provides parking spaces for visitors from beyond the immediate vicinity.

“The community looks forward to working with Westminster Council on an appealing design that can help make St. John’s Wood High Street a destination that draws people from across northwest London to our retailers and restaurants.

“ I’m grateful for how engaged the council has been with the local community in seeking opinions on this. Residents appreciate the degree of consultation.”

Westminster Council is also looking to introduce similar schemes in areas such as Soho. These schemes are being mapped out in partnership with local communities and will only go ahead with the support of residents.