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Pavement cafe revolution: Social distancing scheme transforms Sheffield city centre

A new scheme to make it easier for pubs, cafes and restaurants to set up pavement seating is transforming Sheffield city centre, new figures show.

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Division Street is open to people.

Photo by CycleSheffield.

In response to social distancing rules, Sheffield Council have given businesses the opportunity to apply for a free temporary license to make use of the space outside their building for extra capacity.

The Council have now shared data with Now Then showing that 58 businesses have applied for the licenses up to 21 August, with 47 of these approved and another 11 awaiting a decision.

About 70% of these have been in the city centre, but venues in Abbeydale Road, Fulwood, Crookes and Kelham Island have also made use of the scheme. According to the Council, an average of one venue a day is applying for a new license.

Although temporary, the Council told us that the scheme will continue for the foreseeable future and will be reviewed every six months. If successful, it may be extended.

“We want to do all we can to support our local businesses in reopening following the coronavirus lockdown," said Cabinet Member for Business and Investment Cllr Mazher Iqbal.

"Making the most of outside space is a huge factor in both complying with social distancing guidelines and maximising trading potential."

Supporters say that the project has already given Sheffield the feel of a European city, where low or no-traffic streets and pavement cafes are longstanding features of the urban environment.

The cafe culture transformation has been boosted by Division Street being partially opened to pedestrians and cyclists, which has allowed the Copper Pot cafe and Frog & Parrot pub to expand onto the road.

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Filtering outside The Fat Cat pub in Kelham Island.

Photo by Martin Phipps.

"It's definitely made a difference to me and the cafes here, it also makes it a nicer place to work," tweeted Debbie Moon of house plant specialist MoonKo. "I really don’t want to go back to traffic."

Artist Pete McKee and Division Street pub BrewDog have also voiced their support for the whole road being opened up to people and closed to cars.

As well as pavement licenses, the Council are providing venues with free brightly-coloured barriers to help separate outside customers from pedestrians as part of their Makes Yourself at Home project.

Alex Moore of the newly-opened Hygge Coffee Shop on Fitzalan Square said that it was "great" to get barriers and a pavement cafe license from the Council.

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Division Street on 24 August.

Photo by MoonKo.

"This has enabled us to expand the number of seats we have, as well as encourage customers to sit outside – something that the government are encouraging in the current climate."

In Kelham Island, cult ale house The Fat Cat has been able to add seating in front of the pub since the creation of a low traffic neighbourhood, which includes a filter for pedestrians and cyclists on Alma Street.

"It now feels like a much calmer and more pleasant place to cycle, walk and spend time in," Dexter Johnstone of CycleSheffield told Now Then.

"It's great to see local pubs and cafes take advantage of the scheme with more outdoor seating. We hope this is going to be made permanent and we urge the Council to trial these kind of schemes in other parts of the city."

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