New seating areas outside pubs and cafes and wider pavements have been introduced in Wolverhampton as the council works to boost business and make the city centre safe and welcoming.
The measures aim to assist local restaurants and bars, while also making it easier for people to follow social distancing guidelines.
New requirements when eating and drinking out were announced by the Government this week and people are being encouraged to follow these latest guidelines as they continue to support local businesses.
Under the city centre scheme, Victoria Street has been pedestrianised from its junction at Queen Square to the junction with Bell Street and new outdoor seating areas have been created on the widened pavements.
To encourage greater customer confidence and help replace seating areas inside that have been lost due to social distancing regulations, businesses were encouraged to apply for the pavement licenses brought in by the Government in July.
The licenses allow pubs, restaurants and bars to safely extend their space outdoors. Government set the fee for the licence at £100, but the council has reduced the cost to £25 to help ease the burden for businesses.
Four businesses in Victoria Street applied for the licences and are now starting to offer the new outdoor seating to customers. They are The George Wallis, The Subcontinent, The Giffard Arms, and Lindy Lou’s Café and Coffee Shop.
Further work under the scheme has included installing filled planters to improve the appearance of the area, feature lighting, work to improve vacant shopfront appearances and new bike parking.
Parts of Darlington Street, Queen Square and Lichfield Street have also become one way to allow the creation of a new cycle lane and pavement widening.
The measures have been funded by the council’s successful bid for £347,000 from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) and were first introduced on a temporary basis in June.
Feedback from monitoring the temporary schemes and talking to local businesses and other stakeholders was positive, with people feeling that they had been effective.
Based on this feedback, the council used the remaining EATF funding to carry out the work. Other EATF projects already carried out in the city include cycle lanes in the city centre, changes to the speed limit on the ring road and a new toucan crossing over Ring Road St Peters.
This week, the Government announced that from Thursday (September 24) all pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England must close by 10pm. They will be restricted to providing table service only, except for takeaways. Table bookings of more than six are not allowed and groups cannot mingle.
Staff must now wear masks, as must customers when not seated at their table to eat or drink. Businesses are also legally required to take customers’ contact details so they can be traced if needed.
Councillor Steve Evans, Cabinet Member for City Environment, said: “I warmly welcome the wide variety of projects which have been carried out in the city to make the environment more attractive, support our businesses, promote walking and cycling and make it easier for people to socially distance.
“The Government has this week announced tighter measures when eating or drinking out and we want to encourage everyone to follow these guidelines carefully. Doing so will support our local pubs, bars and cafes as well as helping their staff and other customers stay safe and well.
“We recognise that this is a very difficult time and we want to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to make visiting the city safer and easier for residents. While there are new guidelines, we want to reassure people that our hospitality sector is still open for business and customers to enjoy in a safe way.
“By introducing the measures we have and by asking everyone to follow the national guidelines, we hope residents will feel secure during their visit into the city centre while also supporting our fantastic local businesses.”
Cherry Shine, Wolverhampton Business Improvement District (BID) Director, added: “We’re working with all our businesses to make sure they have the latest guidance to support them and their customers through this period. We really hope that this project in Victoria Street will help to safely improve the footfall and vibrancy of the city centre.
“The BID team is working closely with council officers leading on the project work and we will continue to be the main point of contact between businesses and the council.”