The measures, set to coincide with the planned relaxation of coronavirus guidelines on Monday April 26, also include allowing businesses to serve booze outside until 10pm, and waiving fees for ‘road occupation permits’ for outdoor tables and chairs across the city, until at least September 30.
Restaurants, pubs and cafes will be able to serve food indoors, with alcohol, until 8pm.
From the end of April, six adults from a maximum of three households can socialise outdoors, with physical distancing, and the council is looking to maximise the economic recovery of the city as further lockdown measures are eased.
On George Street which is set to be pedestrianised in the future as part of a multi-million pound council-led redevelopment, kerbside parking will be removed to make way for ‘al fresco’ dining, which it is hoped will encourage businesses to take advantage of the more lenient outdoor coronavirus restrictions.
Council officers are also considering fully closing sections of George Street for events, similar to during the International Book Festival and the Fringe, during which disabled and emergency access, counter-terrosim measures, cycle lanes and loading bays would be maintained.
If given the go ahead, the closed sections would be from Charlotte Square to Castle Street, and from Castle Street to Frederick Street.
A Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) and the associated liaison with local businesses, Essential Edinburgh and the George Street Association, among other stakeholders, would be required to facilitate this event setting. If there is an appetite for these closures to go ahead, it’s anticipated they could be delivered within six to eight weeks of an initial TTRO application.
Waiving permit fees could cost the council up to £150,000, and the removal of kerbside parking could cost up to £800,000.
Council leader, and SNP councillor for Leith, Adam McVey, said: “It’s been an incredibly tough year for the hospitality sector so we’ve been listening carefully to what businesses need and doing whatever we can to help them recover as safely and sustainably as possible as things start to ease up restrictions-wise.
“We’ve been working really closely with Essential Edinburgh and other businesses and organisations to develop these proposals to help traders make the most of outdoor space and safely cater to as many people as possible over the brighter spring and summer months.
“It’s very important we strike the right balance, to make sure we’re not inadvertently making life more difficult for others. That’s why it’ll be key for Essential Edinburgh and other organisations to get the buy-in of affected businesses in the plans and discussions. That will ensure that interventions get as wide as possible support and benefit as many traders as possible.
“Throughout this crisis we’ve been doing as much as we can to support businesses in the city centre and right across the city so that we can help Edinburgh build back better. This work with the hospitality sector is the latest strand of that work and we’ll continue to work with all sectors to protect jobs and aid their recovery.”
Depute council leader, and Labour councillor for Forth, Cammy Day, said: “After such a long time staying at home, people will be champing at the bit to get out into the warmer weather and meet up safely with their friends and family again as restrictions start to relax later this month.
“Last summer we waived tables and chairs permit fees to help restaurants and bars make the most of outdoor space so we want to give the sector the same lift this time round too.
“Attracting more people to these outdoor hospitality areas will also boost footfall for surrounding retail businesses as they reopen their doors.
“People will look forward to planning a trip into town or to their local high street for a bite to eat and a browse round the shops, giving a much longed-for lift to our local traders. Hospitality and retail are the lifeblood of our communities, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and the wider economy, so it’s vital we help them get back on their feet as quickly as they can.”
Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “We welcome the support that the council is giving the city’s hospitality businesses both in the provision of outdoor space and the waiving of costs.
“It is imperative that we maximise the space available to allow hospitality to operate effectively as we adapt to the changing roadmap regulations.
“The council has listened to the business community and is acting quickly, for which we are very appreciative.”