June 24, 2020 / 9:48 PM / 21 days ago

England goes al fresco to help hospitality sector rebound

FILE PHOTO: Shops and restaurants closed on a deserted street in Manchester, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Manchester, Britain, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

LONDON (Reuters) - Restaurants and pubs in England will be able to serve customers on pavements, terraces and even in car parks under a relaxation of planning laws put before parliament on Thursday, as ministers seek to restart the stalled hospitality sector on July 4.

Britain is slowly reopening after more than three months of lockdown that has pushed some businesses to the brink and forced the government to borrow billions to support its economy.

The government will present legislation aimed at allowing pubs, cafes and restaurants more freedom to operate outside, where experts say the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower.

The Business and Planning Bill includes changes to allow venues to spread out into pedestrianised areas, terraces and car parks, and temporarily allow them to sell alcohol that can be consumed off the premises.

“Pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible,” business minister Alok Sharma said.

Britain’s temperate climate enjoyed its hottest day of 2020 on Wednesday, but the Met Office national forecaster has predicted more unsettled weather around July 4.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a broad outline of the next stage of Britain’s return to business on Tuesday, saying he was looking forward to visiting a pub, eating in a restaurant and having his hair cut.

The new legislation builds on that, and is seen as a key step towards getting the hospitality sector, some of which has been forced to shut entirely during lockdown, back on its feet.

It is due to be debated on Monday. Once passed into law, almost all measures will only apply to England, with rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland mostly determined by their own devolved governments.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge

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