Oral update on the latest position.
The Committee received an oral update from the Director of Markets and Consumer Protection providing Members with an update on the current situation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
· On 12 April, the Roadmap Lockdown Easing Step 2 was implemented and despite cold weather, the City’s outdoors hospitality has been busy with approximately 50 licenced premises open for al-fresco to date.
· City Officers and the City of London Police have continued with their partnership approach of the 4 E’s: Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce and confirmed there had been a good level of compliance with the roadmap restrictions resulting in a safe and enjoyable experience. it was noted that some issues have arisen with vertical drinking, takeaway drinks resulting in gatherings and inside spaces being described and used as outdoor spaces, most of which have now been resolved.
· Simple guidance documents have been provided to premises owners alongside seminars with colleagues in Public and Environmental Health.
· Officers envisage significantly more activity in May when premises would be able to open up indoors and as more people return to work across the City.
· Pavement licence applications have continued to be received, with 58 applications since the beginning of January 2021 adding to the existing 77 tables and chairs licences in operation. Businesses have been creative about how licensing can be used flexibly to expand their offering until restrictions are removed more fully.
· To provide a proportionate decision-making tool for pavement licenses in light of CTSA advice, a decision matrix approach is currently being trialled to assist with an acceptable risk level. This will be taken to the Senior Security Board in June and the Planning & Transportation Committee for approval.
· The City Corporation has continued to raise awareness of the Business Recovery Fund linked to the Covid Compliance Accreditation scheme which is in place to assist with the confidence of returning customers which has seen a good number of applications.
· Officers also continue to assist, where they can, with the evolving Recovery Taskforce - Vibrant Offer theme.
Members made the following comments:
· The Chairman thanked Officers for the huge amount of work that had been done to get businesses back up and running. These thanks were echoed by other Members.
· A Member noted that Officers had details of all hospitality trade in the City and suggested sharing information regarding the Covid19 fund to all. It was confirmed that the fund was actively being promoted through LinkedIn, Officers were knocking on doors, and email groups had been contacted.
· A Member was concerned by the number of boarded up premises in the City and was nervous they would not reopen. A list of Applicants that have surrendered licences was requested for Members.
· There was concern that hospitality would struggle to get staff as a number of EU nationals had gone home (due to COVID and Brexit) plus some older staff no longer wanted to travel into the City. In response to a query whether support and encouragement could be made to Government and TfL, it was confirmed that work was ongoing.
· With regards to premises that had applications refused, a Member requested a list of all refusals to date. Officers confirmed there had only been seven refused to date due to the safety of pedestrians / people at tables and were now hopefully resolved by the new risk assessment scheme. It was agreed an update would come to the next meeting.
· In response to a regarding who decided the applications for tables and chairs licenses in the TfL red route, Members were advised that the City Corporation decided the applications with TfL as a consultee.
· The Deputy Director of Public Health provided an overview of local COVID statistics and shared a graph of the number of COVID cases in the City, noting the significant reduction in numbers with no COVID cases at the end March for residents. Businesses were encouraged to take up PCR and lateral flow tests and licensed premises urged to promote all staff to test twice a week and use QR codes to ensure the Public Health team can contact people to avoid breakouts.