Stephen Fry, Bill Nighy and a host of other celebrities have joined a campaign to pedestrianise Soho’s streets this summer to allow pandemic-battered hospitality businesses to bounce back.
Property companies Soho Estates and Shaftesbury have proposed the removal of traffic from the famous district’s streets to create the Soho Summer Festival, with bars and restaurants also given permission by Westminster council to expand into the streets.
The government is expected to give the go-ahead for bars and restaurants with outdoor space to open in the coming weeks, but it is expected that those restricted to indoor sites will be forced to remain closed for significantly longer.
Many of Soho’s bars do not have sufficient space or licensing approval to be viable businesses under such a regime, it is feared.
The campaigners are pushing for the pedestrianisation of Soho Square, Carlisle Street, Bateman Street, Old Compton Street and Brewer Street among others, with the longer streets running north-south including Greek Street, Frith Street and Dean Street also rid of car traffic.
Bars including G-A-Y, Lina Stories, The Groucho Club and Soho House are behind the initiative, along with independent restaurants including 10 Greek Street, Tonkotsu, SO I La, Sussex, the Old Compton Brasserie and Polpo.
‘With so many brilliant independent businesses in Soho, we are at risk of losing the culture that makes the area so special. Despite the awful effects of the crisis, it has been incredibly warming to see the community come together in such a way.’ said John James, Managing Director of Soho Estates.
A petition has been launched to drum up support, with Stephen Fry, Damien Hirst, Olivia Williams and Bill Nighy among the more than 5,000 signatories.