Al fresco culture here to stay as government plans to make it permanent

Frank's Bar in Norwich has added additional seating along Bedford Street.

Frank's Bar in Norwich has added additional seating along Bedford Street. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Al fresco dining was a novelty borne out of the Covid pandemic - but it could be here to stay as ministers' reveal plans to make outdoor seating areas a permanent fixture.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants resorted to marquees and gazebos in an effort to bring back customers while helping reduce the spread of coronavirus indoors.

But many businesses - and their punters - developed a penchant for the European-esque dining style. 

Across Norfolk, plans have already been put in place to make temporary traffic bans and al fresco dining permanent - such as on Norwich's St Benedicts Street.

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The government's consultation was launched on Sunday, and includes plans to support all-year-round outdoor markets by giving powers to local councils to grant them for an unlimited number of days.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: "The simple reforms we made during the pandemic to help hospitality businesses, markets and historic visitor attractions make use of outdoor spaces more easily, made a massive impact.

"As part of our vision to transform high streets into thriving places to work, visit and live, we intend to make as many of these measures permanent fixtures of British life as possible."

Dining pod at the Chestnut Tree pub in Hellesdon

The Moralee family enjoying Sunday lunch in dining pod at the Chestnut Tree pub in Hellesdon. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

In Norfolk, hospitality businesses saw a boom in returning customers by taking advantage of the pandemic-induced al fresco culture.

The Chestnut Tree in Hellesdon invested in new bubble-style pods, dining cabins, gazebo and marquee as part of a complete refurbishment of its garden.

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Assistant manager Chris Stone said he'd seen more customers than before lockdown. 

“We have put a lot of money, heart and soul into getting the garden ready and since we’ve come out of lockdown it has been choc-abloc,” he said. 

Dining pods at the Chestnut Tree pub in Hellesdon.

Dining pods have proved a hit at the Chestnut Tree pub in Hellesdon. - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Popular Broads put The Lion at Thurne installed three exclusive dining greenhouses as part of a revamp of its outdoor grounds. 

The Rose & Crown pub in Snettisham, meanwhile, added a 'beach hut' bar and a new heated double marquee as part of its outdoor facilities.

City centre traffic bans have not been without their controversy, however, with many retailers on St Benedicts Street claiming the permanent al fresco move has made shopping and deliveries difficult.

The Lion at Thurne

The dining greenhouse at Thurne are beautifully dressed and lit by candlelight. - Credit: Archant

Mark Hedge, owner of Cookes musical instrument store, said in June: "Hospitality businesses are not the only businesses on the road".

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