Edinburgh bars and restaurants allowed to keep outdoor seating areas for longer

Bars and restaurants in the Capital have been told they can keep their outdoor seating areas for longer than expected because Covid numbers are still so high.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 4:55 am

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Council chiefs relaxed the rules in April this year to allow hospitality businesses to install outdoor decking when the pandemic restrictions were being eased, but they were given a deadline of September 30 to take them down again.

However, now the council has had a change of heart and said the outdoor structures can stay until October 31 and after that businesses will have to apply for appropriate permissions.

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The Scotsman bar's decking has been in place since April

Daniel McNally, who runs the Scotsman Lounge in Cockburn Street, had pleaded with the council for an extension of the deadline and today he welcomed the council announcement.

He says his business would not have survived without the outdoor seating area and believes it will still be popular even as winter approaches.

“Cases are still sky high,” he said. “People are not going inside, everybody’s outside and it’s safer. Nicola Sturgeon keeps saying stay outdoors as much as possible.

“We’ve just ordered more hot water bottles which people can rent on a deposit, plus tartan blankets as well.

“I’ve been to Denmark and Sweden and people are quite happy to sit outside with a blanket wrapped round them.”

He said he had just taken on another two students part-time.

“We provide table service, the whole concept of the bar has completely changed, the clientele has changed.”

He says he will apply for whatever permission he requires.

“Cockburn Street is going to remain partially pedestrianised so it makes sense.

“It makes people feel safe, it’s created more jobs and it’s kept our business open.”

Charges for outdoor area occupation permits – for tables and chairs – are also being waived until December 31.

The council said it wanted to help the hospitality sector recover and allow businesses to make the most of outdoor space safely.

Council leader Adam McVey said: "Unfortunately, we’re all still very much living through the effects of this pandemic.

“Our local pubs, cafes and restaurants have had an extremely tough 18 months and so and it’s really important we continue to do everything we can to support our local businesses as they begin to recover with many restrictions now no longer in place.

"This needs to be balanced with local needs and so that’s why if you created an additional structure for extra outdoor capacity during the pandemic, you need to apply for the appropriate permission after October 31.”

He said surrounding retail businesses would also benefit because more people were attracted to enjoy the outdoor spaces across the city.

Depute Leader Cammy Day added: “Last year we streamlined the application process for using outdoor spaces for tables and chairs as part of our drive to support the city’s economic recovery. Our aim is to help businesses safely make use of outside space at no cost to them.

"We’re continuing to implement the permit system to allow us to monitor where businesses are providing outdoor space to make sure they are doing so appropriately and safely, while also taking into account the needs of local people.”

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