Large crowds gather in Soho
Large crowds gather in Soho

Councillor Pancho Lewis and Westminster Labour are calling for the Council to take decisive action to prevent the kind of scenes seen in Soho yesterday occurring again.

Labour is extremely concerned about the very large crowds that gathered on the streets on Saturday. Commentators called the scenes a “petri dish” for the virus and described the streets as being “out of control”.*1

As such Labour is calling on the Council, police and other authorities including central government if necessary to devise a new set of plans to prevent yesterday’s scenes from repeating themselves.

A key issue is the sale of alcohol for consumption off-premise and explains the very large numbers of people who gathered on Old Compton Street and drank until the early hours often in large crowds. Any sensible plan to ensure social distancing measures are respected necessarily has to address this issue. In addition measures should be implemented to encourage the use of masks and must include much clearer guidance for businesses (to date, communication with businesses has been patchy at best and the process for implementing outdoor dining and drinking arrangement rushed).

Labour has in recent weeks on a number of occasions warned that a much better plan is needed, including at Full Council and in letters to major Soho landlords and the Council’s Chief Executive.

Cllr Pancho Lewis said:

“This was meant to be a European-style al fresco revolution. It was the opposite – a street party open until very late with people getting very drunk and gathering en masse. This is clearly very bad news for attempts to restrict the virus from spreading and a nightmare for local residents.

“We need to support hospitality businesses but it needs to be done in the right way. This isn’t the right way.”

Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Shadow Cabinet Member for Planning and Business, said:

“Planning and licensing rules exist for good reasons. This Government is deregulating without a plan and chaos in London’s West End is the result.


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