Dozens of businesses inquire about outdoor eating areas in Aberdeen

Dozens of businesses in Aberdeen have inquired about installing outdoor seating areas in temporary pedestrian spaces which are being created to allow people to physically distance while walking or standing in queues.

Areas around the city, including part of Union Street and nearby streets, are seeing temporary works installed to allow people to walk, cycle, and queue for buses, to visit shops, bars, and restaurants while adhering to physical distancing guidance and to support the NHS.

The works will help protect public health by reducing COVID-19 transmission in the city which will in turn reduce the number of cases NHS Grampian’s contact tracing team have to cope with, making their intervention easier and more effective. The temporary measures will further help the economic recovery of the city and allow people to continue to use active travel such as walking and cycling.

As part of the works creating pedestrianised areas, cafes, restaurants and bars can fast-track through the usual processes to apply for an outdoor seating area. These areas can open from Monday 6 July, once licences have been approved.

So far, about 40 businesses have made inquiries about the different aspects of the outdoor eating area scheme, and about 20 businesses have put applications forward for occasional licenses with more expected.

The types of businesses include cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, and a sports club. Most of the businesses are in the city centre and Rosemount within the new pedestrianised areas, and most are independent local businesses.

Aberdeen City Council transport spokesperson Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “It’s great that so many businesses have come forward and asked about installing an outdoor area and most of them said they’re working on their application.

“People will be able to walk around, queue for shops and eateries, and eat and drink in outdoor areas safely around Aberdeen city centre away from traffic which in turn will help the social and economic recovery of the city.

“We’ve been carrying out these works now so when the lockdown eases in the next phases, people returning to the city centre shops, restaurants and bars will be able to physically distance straight away.

“There is similar work being carried out in towns and cities across Scotland as part of a concerted effort to reduce transmission of COVID-19.”

Licensed premises that wish to sell alcohol in an outdoor area are being urged to apply for the occasional licences which may permit pubs and restaurants to open outdoor spaces with physical distancing and increased hygiene measures in place.

Alcohol must be licensed for on-sale consumption if it is to be sold in an outdoor area. In cases in which the outdoor area already forms part of a Premises Licence, the area can be utilised under the current terms of that licence. In such instances, licence holders must have written policies and procedures on physical distancing and hygiene measures that can be demonstrated to Police Scotland or Licensing Standards Officers if necessary.

Where the outdoor area is not currently part of a Premises Licence, the Licensing Board will permit the use of Occasional Licences as a temporary measure. The prohibition against a series of Occasional Licences will be relaxed, as will the requirement to submit applications four weeks in advance. Every attempt will be made to process applications as quickly as possible, however turnaround times cannot be guaranteed.

Under current legislation, an Occasional Licence has a maximum duration of 14 days in terms of the legislation and this cannot be extended or altered by the Licensing Board. Pubs and restaurants can submit a series of Occasional Licence applications at the same time.

This guidance is intended to provide information for premises seeking to take up this opportunity in Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown restrictions. It will be reassessed ahead of Phases 3 and Phase 4 of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Route Map.

The information for businesses including guidance and how to apply for the licensing, pavement occupation and planning permits is available as part of a guide for businesses on physical distancing. The guide is available to download at https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/services/coronavirus-covid-19/city-centre. The City Council’s intention is to prioritise and process any applications as quickly as possible to help the city centre recover.

The works in the city centre are being carried out by Aberdeen City Council after a ringfenced £1.76million grant from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund which is being administered by Sustrans, and measures taking place in several locations around the city include temporary pedestrianisation, pavement widening, bike lanes, and one-way walking.

The city centre, and Union Street in particular, faces challenges because pavements are not wide enough to accommodate the current 2-metre level of physical distancing.

City centre traffic must re-route to free up carriageway space for businesses, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Motorists are advised to plan their journey in advance talking appropriate routes which avoid Union Street to access city centre car parks.

The works particularly on Union Street and nearby streets are being put in place before the next lockdown phases are relaxed so when people start returning to Union Street in larger numbers, the space to allow for physical distancing has already been created.

The program of works has been developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation NESTRANS, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired, and organisations which have been consulted include city centre businesses, bus companies, taxi firms, Police Scotland, the Disability Equity Partnership, and other local groups.

Aberdeen City Council will continue to review, monitor, and evaluate the interventions while discussions are held with stakeholders, and when the measures are in place. The continual reviewing may mean changes to the interventions, and it is also a requirement of the fund, which is being administered by sustainable transport body Sustrans Scotland.

The length of time the temporary measures will be in place will be determined by NHS and Government guidance for physical distancing.