'Let us serve al fresco,' plead Hampstead restaurants and cafes
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Hospitality businesses are urging Camden Council to give them more outdoor space to “get Hampstead back on its feet”.
Restaurants and cafés in Hampstead Village and South End Green have called for more shared space – “streateries” – where customers are wined and dined al fresco, as in Belsize Village.
Traders say greater outdoor seating will not only help their long road to recovery from the pandemic, but provide a social boon to the local community.
Locations have been suggested such as Perrins Court, Flask Walk, Oriel Place, Holly Bush Vale and Hampstead High Street.
Camden Council said it had supported nine streateries to open on April 12, and that it was consulting with Hampstead businesses on new al fresco areas.
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Hasan Demir, the owner of Zara restaurant, told the Ham&High: “This is about community, social life – not just restaurant trading.
“We are social entities, we’ve been closed for months, and it’s affected people’s mental health.
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“People are desperate to go out and have a social life but we can only do that on the street, so we should be able to trade outside with fewer difficulties.”
Comparing the area’s lively atmosphere to countries such as Italy, Greece and Turkey, he called on the South End Green streatery – a fixture of last summer – to be reintroduced.
In Hampstead Village, meanwhile, Rinaldo Mollura has been unable to open his restaurant, Villa Bianca, due to a lack of outdoor space to make his business feasible.
He said: “Every summer, from 1969 to 1998, I was putting tables right along the centre of the road (in Perrins Court). We never had a problem then, so why not, in these circumstances, do exactly the same now?
“I’m really, really, really worried about the [indoor] reopening [on May 17] because I don’t know what is going to happen. If we lose too much money then it will be very complicated.
“We are going to have a shortage of staff and some things aren't going to be working... so it will help us enormously to have the possibility of having at least seven or eight tables outside, and we’ll pay whatever our costs are.”
Rinaldo’s son Nicholas, the director of the Coffee Cup in Hampstead High Street, said a streatery would give the area a “massive boost”.
He said shared outdoor space, which include cover from the rain, would provide businesses with more security by making them less dependent on the weather.
Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town), Camden’s opposition leader, called more al fresco seating “essential to helping Hampstead survive and thrive”.
"People want to get back to normality, which means going out, socialising, and making up for lost time with friends – paradoxically, getting back to that normal must mean thinking afresh about how to allow it,” Cllr Cooper said.
“Streateries were initially only a public health necessity, but they're now also a social and economic necessity to get Hampstead back on its feet.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “We know businesses in Hampstead have faced significant impacts from the pandemic and this has led to strong demand from businesses to develop outdoor seating proposals – across the borough we have seen applications up by almost 100%.
"As such, we are focussed on supporting our hospitality businesses to resume trading with outdoor seating, so that they can welcome back customers safely and begin to thrive again.
“While the reopening of the South End Green Streatery has been postponed, we are working on plans to provide a longer-term solution which supports businesses there as well as the needs of residents, visitors and local transport links.
“At the same time, we are working with businesses in Hampstead to explore new streatery schemes.
"On April 12, nine streateries opened in Camden, including on South End Road, and work is underway to open a further six schemes next month – subject to road safety reviews and a full consultation.
"We want to continue exploring new schemes together with our businesses and communities to help create safe and inclusive spaces that will support our businesses as lockdown restrictions ease."
The council added that it had approved more than 220 pavement licences, and that it was making grant funding available to help businesses reopen.