Back in May, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that more areas of London were set to go car-free as the city emerged from the COVID crisis.
Not only was this change a reaction to make areas safer under social distancing guidelines, but a chance to push London into the 21st century and create more pollution-reduced zones and safe havens for walkers and cyclists.
It looks like now we’re finally starting to see Sadiq’s ideas come into effect as Soho has announced a pedestrianised initiative – hurrah!
The iconic rabbit warren of streets is famed for everything from sex shops to late-night jazz bars, Italian-style coffee shops to LGBTQ+ bars, Michelin-starred restaurants to some of our favourite casual eateries, and it’s just gone car-free for the rest of the summer.
Here’s everything you need to know about Soho’s Summer Street Festival and how to enjoy yourself al fresco without being beeped out the way by a London cabbie.
Where will be pedestrianised?
Seventeen Soho streets will be pedestrianised this summer, allowing for drinks in the sun, al fresco dinners and socially distanced strolls to take place. Restaurants and bars in the area will be allowed to open up outside space to ensure they can cater for more punters under social distancing rules.
Some of the streets taking place are some of London’s best-loved, including; Greek Street, Old Compton Street, Frith Street and Dean Street.
Soho’s Summer Street Festival will be in place every evening from 5pm during the summer months. The pedestrianisation actually came into play this weekend (4th July) and saw crowds swarm Soho. Of course, there are some issues with social distancing that need to be addressed and hopefully revellers will adhere and respect the guidelines going forward if we’re to keep London’s food and drink institutions safe, open and long lasting.
The images from the press on Saturday were a bit of a shock to the system after months of barely seeing anyone, so let’s hope everyone can do their part in having a social life under government guidelines.
A whole host of Soho favourites are joining in, from the iconic Bar Italia – the only place to get a late-night espresso in our opinion, to fish and seafood restaurant Randall & Aubin, private members’ club Groucho, the famous pistachio-hued Italian deli and eatery Lina Stores. Plus Michelin-starred tapas restaurant, Barrafina will be taking reservations for the first time in its history from July 9th so make the most of not having to queue.
Plus some will be offering special deals throughout the festival. Pasta gurus Pastaio will reopen with free meals for under 12s all summer, honouring the amazing efforts of NHS key-workers, they will receive 50% off their bill and 25% off for hospitality workers, students and over the 60s. Poppies, the traditional fish and chip shop, is back and gifting guests a free glass of wine or bottle of beer when they next dine in, available to redeem via their website; and Cafe Boheme & Dean Street Townhouse will be offering a welcome drink offer for all dinner bookings in their first week of opening.
40 Dean Street, Bar Swift, Bar Termini, Le Bab, Zima and many more. Plus, for those who fancy a little Soho staycation can book into the Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel. The rooftop bar will be open for residents (worth the booking alone) and The Wild Heart Bar and Grill, which has an outside terrace, will be open for non-hotel guests too.
How are social distancing measures being put in place?
There will be clear advertising telling punters which safety measures they will need to adhere to and a walkway will be kept through the streets to allow people to safely walk at a social distance. Plus, restaurants, bars and pubs taking part will only be allowed to operate a table and chair only policy to avoid big groups gathering in the streets. And all tables will of course be distanced appropriately.
In Sadiq’s original statement back in May he suggested the streets that join some of the capital’s hot spots, such as London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn, will be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists, which would certainly make London an easier and more pleasant place to socially distance and travel through during these strange times.
South West London suburb (and home to The Handbook), Wandsworth Town, is already taking the leap, closing it’s pretty Old York Road to larger vehicles making it a traffic-free, pedestrian-and-cyclist-friendly zone from 6th July until the end of August. Here’s hoping many of London’s other charming pockets will follow suit, for the summer at least.