A positive -- and perhaps lasting -- outcome from the covid emergency is that local councils relaxed licensing rules on outside seating for public houses, cafes and restaurants -- and one High Barnet beneficiary hopes the changes will be made permanent.
Two High Street parking bays immediately in front of Ye Olde Monken Holt were converted into a mini extension of the pub where customers can stand or sit on stools and enjoy a drink.
Publican Veronica McGowan hopes Barnet Council will continue the licensing scheme – which costs the pub £100 a year in rent – because it has proved a great success and is especially popular with summer visitors and walkers heading for Hadley Green.
To evaluate the impact of what are officially known as parklets the council has consulted businesses and residents who might be affected and has also sought the views of community groups.
There has been some opposition to four parklets in Golders Green which are outside cafes and restaurants.
Criticism has arisen – including a petition to the council -- because of what are thought to be the introduction of more permanent fixtures at several outside seating areas.
Some pedestrians dislike having to walk through these mini extensions and object to the way pavement has almost been commandeered for commercial use.
Parklets and seating areas on pavements were given the go ahead three years ago at the height of the covid emergency.
The government was anxious to ease the regulations on licensing temporary seating areas on parking spaces to assist hospitality businesses and to encourage people to have refreshments and meals outside with less risk of infection.
Veronica McGowan said she seized the opportunity to build a parklet outside the Monken Holt. Her customers rallied round to erect a fence to provide a barrier with the road and install planters to add to the ambiance.
“The council offered us the extra space outside. For the first two years they let us have two parking bays without charge. Now it costs £100 a year and my customers are delighted.
“Even now some regulars still prefer to have a drink and chat outside. Others like to have a smoke.
“This outside area is really popular in the summer – lots of customers just like people watching or picking out the expensive cars heading for Camlet Way and Hadley Wood.
“When the flowers are out it is all very summery. We have herbs growing in the planters, even tomatoes and strawberries.”
Ms McGowan said the top of the High Street, almost within touching distance of Hadley Green, is an ideal position for an outside area for a pub.
“Clearly there would not be room further down where the High Street and pavements are so narrow, but I think, and so do the regulars, that our parklet adds to village atmosphere at the top of the High Street.”
Across the road from the Monken Holt is the newly restored pink granite water fountain – back in use after 50 years – just one of the attractions for visitors and walkers heading for Hadley Green, Hadley Common or the London Loop footpath.
Barnet Council said that it had completed consultations on temporary seating areas for hospitality businesses and these would now be evaluated to determine future policy.