Bar owners call for Burnley town centre road to be pedestrianised to aid reopening

Burnley bar owners are calling for a town centre road to be pedestrianised in order to given them a "fighting chance" when they reopen.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 12:30 pm

Burnley bar owners are calling for a town centre road to be pedestrianised in order to give them a "fighting chance" when they reopen.

The owners of Smackwater Jacks, Remedy and Mojitos are asking for the section of Ormerod Street outside their premises to be temporarily closed off to vehicles so they can set up tables and chairs for customers.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on Saturday, July 4th, following three months of closure.

(Left to right) Remedy owners Gaz Ali and Madge Nawaz, Smackwater Jacks manager Paul Bentley and Mojitos owners Brooklyn Wolski and Adam Brown. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

All venues will be expected to keep a record of people who visit to enable contact tracing, and to assist with reopening, the two-metre social distancing rule will be reduced to 1m-plus.

However, this still means the majority of pubs and bars will be operating at a reduced capacity while having to employ extra staff to ensure stringent government guidelines are adhered to.

As a result, a number of cities and towns across the UK have successfully petitioned councils to pedestrianise streets as a way of generating additional revenue. Only last week, Ribble Valley Council temporarily banned vehicles in Castle Street as part of a council campaign to boost business and keep shoppers safe.

Adam Brown, who runs Mojitos, said adopting a similar approach in Burnley would go a long way to helping bars survive this potentially devastating period.

"The plan is to pedestrianise the entire street," he said. "It's happened in major cities and towns. It means that we could expand where our customers can sit, where they can drink, and basically get back to a normal lifestyle without affecting anybody else.

"The entire street has only got bars on it so it's not going to affect any other businesses. There are two other direct routes around this road as well so it's not even going to affect traffic.

"It's not ideal [the 1m social distancing], but obviously we have to suffer the government guidelines. The scientists are saying it is capable of working with a one-metre plus ruling, so it's the only way we can reopen and survive what's going on.

"Without a shadow of a doubt [this would be received by regulars]. It give us more scope to host events with the other bars on the street. If we have the street it give us more scope to maneuver, more room to put on productions, gain more revenue and bring more people into the town centre."

Smackwater Jacks celebrated its 43rd birthday on Wednesday. Manager Paul Bentley said in the four decades the iconic bar had been open it had never been forced to close its doors.

"This is a unique situation. [In the last few weeks] we have done what the people have asked for. People will be quite shocked when we reopen.

"If we can open the outdoor section, it means that we accommodate a few more people. We've got a lot of people asking to come in, and obviously we don't want to crowd the bar so we need to spread out the people.

"Over a weekend we can have 700 people on one night; now we're not expecting that but if a large number of people come in we're going to end up with queues on the street. That's the main worry we have.

"We've thought about it, we've spoken about it, but we've never had a real reason to do it. But now we believe it is a situation where the government and the guidelines are saying use public car parking spaces, use the high streets; so ideally this would be beneficial for us and it's not really costing anyone anything."

Remedy owners Madge Nawaz and Gaz Ali said the pedestrianisation of Ormerod Street would add an extra dimension to the town centre.

"We're actually really lucky because we've got some really good friends on here in Mojitos and Smacks," said Madge. "We all work together, we all promote together; this is what we have always done and what we will always do.

"Something like this is ideal because we can all work together. If the council would be willing to back us then this would be absolutely fantastic for Burnley. It could become the centre point of Burnley in fact. Fingers crossed they will let us do it.

"We will definitely struggle given the size of our bar, so this is ideal. We don't expect the council to pay for anything, we just want to be given the chance to do it.

"This would be good for not just us, but Burnley as a whole."

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has given his back to the idea.

“We need to give as much support as we can to bars and restaurants that will be reopening in the town centre and across the borough," he said. "Going from 2m to 1m will make a big difference in making sure they can open with sufficient numbers to be viable, but I’d also like to see the council give flexibility to use outdoor space where that's possible, including outdoor seating across the town centre for example."

Burnley Council and Lancashire County Council have been approached for comment.