Fears ‘al fresco revolution’ has become al fresco intoxication

Calls for action to prevent repeat of ‘Super Saturday’ as drinkers took advantage of streets closed to traffic

Friday, 10th July 2020 — By Tom Foot

Frith Street seated eating and drinking

Barriers prevent vehicles entering Frith Street in Soho

LABOUR councillors are calling for “decisive action” to stop large crowds swamping Soho as they did on “Super Saturday”.

The opposition group on Westminster City Council wants a new plan for the hospitality reopening with a special focus on the sale of alcohol for consumption “off-premise”.

Streets were closed to help struggling restaurants and bars in what organisers hoped would lead to a civilised outdoor dining experience comparable with major European cities.

But West End ward councillor Pancho Lewis said: “This was meant to be a European-style al fresco revolution.

West End ward councillor Pancho Lewis

“It was the opposite – a street party open until very late – with people getting very drunk and gathering en masse.”

On Saturday 3,700 venues in Westminster were able to open their doors for the first time in months.

The council said there were some “isolated issues with crowding” and would be sending a “no licence, no trade” message and operating a “no seat, no service” policy.

Teams of officers will be responsible for ensuring “swift action” is taken if there is overcrowding again this weekend, the council said.

Lead business councillor Matthew Green said: “Let me be clear: there is no festival in Soho. Social distancing is still in place and now is not the time for street parties but for everyone to play their part in supporting the safe reopening of hospitality businesses that have been hard hit.”

“Public safety is paramount and if these temporary plans don’t work, we won’t hesitate to go back to the drawing board.”

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