Big plans are brewing to make cafe culture a permanent feature in Aberdeen post-Covid.
Aberdeen Inspired believes sidewalk cafes and outdoor dining on a permanent basis will be the saving grace for struggling hospitality businesses.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of the business improvement development, said business owners have told him it has been good for business and he is now calling on Aberdeen City Council to do all it can to make cafe culture a permanent feature.
However, council convener Marie Boulton said there is a balance to be struck to ensure the city centre works for everyone.
Discussions are ongoing between businesses, the local authority and customers to see what shape it could take.
Bars, cafes and restaurants have been making the most of relaxed planning rules, setting up tables, chairs and marquees on outdoor space for social distancing.
‘It all adds to the atmosphere and attracts visitors’
Mr Watson said Covid-imposed outdoor dining and drinking has left the clientele craving a bit more than a caffeine jolt.
And businesses have already spoken in support.
He said: “As a result of the pandemic, the partial pedestrianisation of parts of Union Street and Belmont Street is already leading to more cafe culture spaces for people to dwell and enjoy, adding to the atmosphere in the city centre and creating new reasons for visitors to head into town.
“There was initial scepticism, and of course the weather is a factor, but perhaps the pandemic has taught us that we just need to be prepared and the new outdoor culture has been embraced by the overwhelming majority of the public here in the North-east.”
Mr Watson said BID continues to push for the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan, which is currently being revised, to focus on opportunities that can create more pedestrian-friendly areas and city centre living.
But Mrs Boulton says cars should not be shunned and there was a lot to be considered.
“I believe it would be foolish to alienate the car user from the city centre,” she said.
“Instead, what we need to do is facilitate the car user in appropriately-located car parks.”
‘Transport routes are not what they need to be’
She went on: “It is important that we recognise that people’s lifestyles are very busy and that the options of cycling, walking or taking the bus may not work for them due to restrictions of available time.
“We must also recognise that Aberdeen is a regional destination and that direct public transport routes are not always available or practical.”
She added that cafe culture had been made possible in the short-term due to relaxed planning legislation, and “all of this would need to be considered as we make decisions”.
“I think as we go out to consultation with the public and interested stakeholders we will get a better understanding of what, where and how we could develop our café culture moving forward.”
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