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London’s gay Soho sets strict new rules on bars to avoid another chaotic ‘Super Saturday’ after last weekend’s uproar

Patrick Kelleher July 10, 2020
London Soho overcrowding

Police breaking up a fight outside a pub in Soho on July 4, 2020 in London (Peter Summers/Getty)

Westminster City Council is introducing a raft of new measures to stop overcrowding after photos of a packed Soho led to public outrage last weekend.

There was swift condemnation last weekend when photos of overcrowding in Soho were shared online, with few people engaging in social distancing.

The grand re-opening, dubbed “Super Saturday”, was subsequently labelled a “disaster” by the owner of queer club G-A-Y Jeremy Joseph.

Now, Westminster City Council has introduced a number of new measures to prevent similar scenes in Soho this weekend.

The council said they will be reminding local venues ahead of the weekend of their responsibilities and council officers will visit bars and restaurants to ensure the message is getting through.

Westminster City Council hopes to avoid overcrowding in Soho with a ‘no seat, no service’ policy.

They are also insisting that venues introduce demarcated enclosures around outdoor seating areas in central locations to ensure the space is only occupied by those sitting at tables.

Furthermore, they are asking customers to only frequent venues where they have booked a table and to avoid gathering in busy areas and want venues to implement a “no seat, no service” policy – which would prevent revellers from standing around on crowded streets.

The council said they will use all enforcement powers available to them to ensure public safety measures are met by venues and customers.

Social distancing is still in place and now is not the time for street parties.

“Last weekend we saw a vast reopening of London’s most famous hospitality areas, with a large majority showing a safe and successful example of the new normal for the city’s bars, cafés, and restaurants,” said councillor Matthew Green, cabinet member for Business and Planning.

“At the same time, we saw isolated instances of crowding in some of our busier areas. This is something that cannot happen again as we must ensure the safety of the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“As we look ahead to this weekend, we will be ramping up efforts to remind venues of their responsibilities and the licensing rules.”

Councillor insists that social distancing must be adhered to.

He continued: “Let me be clear: there is no festival in Soho. Social distancing is still in place and now is not the time for street parties but for everyone to play their part in supporting the safe reopening of hospitality businesses that have been hard hit.”

Green said that, if the current plans don’t work, they will be forced to “go back to the drawing board”.

“So let’s all work together and keep the West End and Soho in particular safe and open.”

Writing on social media last weekend, G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph spoke of his discomfort at the photos and videos circulating online of a crowded Soho, and said Old Compton Street was “uncontrollable”.

“One can hope it was a one off, but inside venues was a different story,” he said. “It was seated, screens in between tables, limited numbers inside and background music.”

He said it was “obvious” that the streets in London would be packed, and slammed the government for significantly easing lockdown restrictions on a Saturday.

“It should have been a soft opening on Monday,” he said.

More: Matthew Green, Soho, westminster city council

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