As Aberdeen emerges from pandemic-imposed restrictions, the city centre Business Improvement District is calling for the café culture that has emerged during lockdown to become a permanent feature.

With many hospitality businesses getting creative to turn pavements, car parks and disused spaces into temporary outdoor areas for eating and drinking, Aberdeen Inspired is championing the idea of embracing this all year-round.

The current partial pedestrianisation of streets including Union Street and Belmont Street has seen cafes, bars and restaurants taking the opportunity to extend their floor space into marquees and other temporary buildings.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said the city could learn from many other European cities, where a vibrant outdoor café culture is evident in all seasons.

“As we have seen 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,” he said.

“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.

“There’s nothing better than sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with a coffee or a glass of wine but so many other countries, especially across Europe, embrace that culture and adapt to the changing seasons.

“Working together with Aberdeen City Council and our city centre businesses, we have successfully introduced a café culture in Aberdeen as a result of the temporary spaces that have arisen from the Covid-19 restrictions. Now we want to see that continue to grow and become the norm here in the Granite City.

“As the BID we work with our many partners to create a vibrant and busy city centre for locals, workers and visitors and this would be a fantastic way to encourage support for local, independent outlets and small businesses,” Mr Watson added.

Funding was recently granted to improve some of Aberdeen’s most iconic streets with illuminated suspended signs to further enhance the look of the city centre and benefit both the day and night-time economies.

The signs will be hung at either end of Shiprow, Belmont Street, Stirling Street, Back Wynd Steps, Windmill Brae, both ends of Langstane Place, Chapel Street, Crown Street, Carmelite Street and George Street.

Mr Watson said Aberdeen Inspired is open to suggestions from businesses and visitors about how a permanent café culture might work.

“The BID continues to push for further delivery of the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan, with a focus on opportunities to create more pedestrian friendly areas and city centre living,” he said. “This would open up possibilities for more coffee shops, bars and restaurants to keep their outdoor and pavement spaces and making the initiative permanent would allow businesses to further invest in the temporary structures and create even more attractive spaces.

“We’d love to hear innovative ideas about what could be done to provide sufficient shelter and facilities for Aberdeen to truly embrace the concept of a European café culture.”

Aberdeen Inspired recently launched its Back the BID campaign to encourage levy payers to vote in favour of retaining the Business Improvement District.

In line with Scotland’s other BIDs, Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the businesses within the BID footprint every five years.

A successful ballot on June 24 will ensure it can continue working on behalf of local shops, bars, restaurants, property owners, landlords, shopping centres and all other city centre businesses until at least 2026.

The BID footprint covers Union Street and the surrounding streets, including Broad Street, Market Street, Bridge Street, Huntly Street and Holburn Junction.

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