In what is believed to be the first project of its kind in the country, Liverpool City Council launched a £450,000 fund in June 2020 to help local, small to medium-sized restaurants and cafes to redesign outdoor spaces and turn them in to high quality, covered seating areas. This made up for the internal space they lost because of social distancing restrictions.
This was a long-needed lifeline because the hospitality industry needed to recover some of the financial losses they suffered during times on non-trading and limited indoor seating capacity.
As well as the grant funding businesses were given free trading permits. Some roads were closed which facilitated larger outdoor seating areas, spanning on to the pavements and streets. Architecturally designed wooden parklets also became common place as the industry started to embrace the 'al fresco culture' on a larger scale. Each parklet and newly created dining space required loose outdoor cafe furniture which needed to be moveable, lightweight and stackable.
How were Café Reality involved?
Café Reality were designated by Liverpool City Council and the award winning Parklet supplier Meristem Design to supply and deliver the outdoor furniture to feature in this ambitious scheme.
We supplied over 300 outdoor dining chairs and tables from the Stuart and Moby range. The Moby range of seating is bright, colorful and is shaped for comfort. Several Kendo wooden tables and Kendo wooden low stools were also supplied on the roads and pavements and within the newly installed wooden parklets.
We also worked closely with the parklet supplier Meristem Design to ensure that the wood finish of the tabletops and stools would match with the parklets and decking.
Delivery was then made to the three main hospitality areas, Bold Street, Castle Street and Lark Lane. In essence, roads were closed off to traffic in order to ‘bring culture back to the streets’.
What were the results?
The scheme was a huge success and figures show that from July 20th to September 25th 2020, the scheme generated additional sales of £8.9 million revenue. For every £1 invested, it returned £20 back in to the local economy.
Restaurants, cafes and bars were able to cater for a further 2,723 covers and the majority of venues were able to bring staff back from furlough.
Covers increased by 42% and for some smaller venues actually increased the capacity they had prior to social distancing.
95% were satisfied with Liverpool Without Walls scheme
82% of venues believed it had increased sales
64% felt the scheme had made it viable for them to reopen
Further feedback from café owners and businesses also included:
‘The idea was right for the time and showed imagination’.
Without it, we may have needed to close the business’.
‘A great initiative that literally saved our bacon’.
Peter Kinsella, owner of Lunya, which has eateries in Liverpool One and Albert Dock, said: The Liverpool Without Walls funding made a huge difference to both of our restaurants.
‘At a time when we were desperately short of cash, the funding enabled us to expand the covers in our terraces which provided our guests with a much better outside experience and, more importantly, enabled us to generate much needed revenue from the outside space
‘It was a life saver for the business and we are delighted with the support’.
Project Manager Claire Mc Harkness who worked with Café Reality on the scheme said:
'The furniture has been extremely well received by business owners and the public, boosting our cause to ‘bring life back to the high street’ whilst helping small to medium business get back on their feet. We are so pleased with the results that we are predicting the furniture and parklets will be in place for some time, even into the winter months. We were really pleased with how Café Reality quickly realised our vision and requirements, suggesting a range of durable, weatherproof chairs and tables to fit the brief.'
Café Reality were really pleased to be a part of this scheme and to receive such positive feedback from all of those involved. We strongly believe that the key to reopening the high streets should start with the hospitality sector as cafes are a place to meet and socialise with friends and family. A sense of place and community is going to be so important once all restrictions have been lifted so a revitalized high street which embraces meeting up outside will surely thrive?