Oxford City Council is providing funding for pedestrianisation and outdoor seating areas from April to help restaurants, cafes and pubs across the city.
On 12 April, the Government will enable hospitality businesses to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown to serve customers sitting outside.
This means many businesses in Oxford – particularly in and around the city centre – will not be able to reopen because they do not have outdoor dining areas.
The Government will not allow indoor dining areas to reopen until 17 May at the earliest. See our handy roadmap of when lockdown restrictions will be lifted in Oxfordshire.
Over the last year, the City Council, working with the highway authority Oxfordshire County Council, has been pedestrianising and part-pedestrianising streets across Oxford to provide space for outdoor dining areas as a temporary measure to contribute to the recovery.
These outdoor dining areas – including Cornmarket Street, St Michael’s Street, Broad Street, Dawson Street, Observatory Street and North Parade Avenue, plus several individual areas on wider pavements – will be able to reopen on 12 April.
The City Council and County Council are also continuing to consider whether outdoor seating schemes can be accommodated on other key city centre roads, where there are significant competing demands.
Businesses aiming to reopen on 12 April must register their interest in accessing funds from the grant pot by 28 March. Expressions of interest are welcomed after this but will not be considered as part of the initial round. Future rounds will be dependent on the amount of funding remaining in the pot.
Individual schemes may need road closures, changes to car parking or loading bays, relocating existing infrastructure such as bike racks, installing protection measures, and the payment of fees for road closures.
The City Council has launched a £65,000 funding pot, and hospitality businesses can apply for grants of up to £3,250 to help with the cost of partially closing roads or buying and/or moving street furniture, to enable them to reopen on 12 April, or as close to this as possible.
The funding for these outdoor seating arrangements will come from the Additional Restrictions Grant, which the Government provided to local authorities as a discretionary pot of money to support businesses in their local area.
For more information and to apply, please visit oxford.gov.uk/outdoorseating.
In addition to pedestrianising or part-pedestrianising roads, to create space for outdoor dining areas, the City Council and County Council will also permit businesses to operate outside seating areas on pavements wide enough to accommodate tables and chairs and with pedestrians able to maintain social distancing.
This will include a range of places like Friars Entry, High Street, Banbury Road, Park End Street, and Walton Street.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: "The Government’s decision to allow restaurants, cafes and pubs to reopen outdoor dining areas on 12 April is fantastic for rural pubs with large gardens, but could be a challenge for businesses in Oxford, particularly in the city centre.
"We want to do what we can to support Oxford’s restaurants, cafes and pubs to reopen on 12 April, if they feel they can. So, where possible, we are reinstating the schemes listed to create outdoor dining areas, and we will also be launching funding to help businesses create seating areas themselves.
"Last summer, a number of businesses told us that they would not have reopened after the first lockdown without the City Council and County Council as highway authority, creating space for outdoor seating areas.
"Oxford’s restaurants, cafes and pubs are a vital part of the city’s economy, atmosphere and culture, and provide thousands of jobs for Oxford and Oxfordshire residents, so it is extremely important that we do what we can to support them opening and get our economy moving again."