By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
As the sun shines in Croydon, drinkers and diners have been making full use of a new outdoor seating area put in place last week.
The pedestrianised area of the High Street has been transformed by Croydon BID to encourage more people to get back to the town centre.
Friends Leslie Smith and Fred Mayhew, both 64, said they would be more inclined to travel to Croydon from South Norwood for a drink when the weather is warm.
The were sitting in the sunshine on Wednesday lunchtime waiting for their drinks from Milan Bar.
Leslie said: “One problem we’ve always found in Croydon is there’s not many place to sit outside.”
While Fred said it is something he would like to see kept in place in the future.
Lauren Taylor was also enjoying a drink in the sunshine.
The 26-year-old said: “It is good there is more places to sit outside now. It is good if you want to socialise and get out, we’ve been in lockdown for so long.
“I think they should keep it for good.”
Matthew Sims, chief executive of Croydon BID said he hopes that the new area will encourage more people to come back to the town centre as the easing of the lockdown means up to 30 people can meet outside and six indoors.
He said: “We are asking people to support our hospitality venues, the only way we will begin to recover from the past 15 months is collectively and together.”
Just down the road, the Clocktower Cafe,in Katharine Street has reopened for business and wants to see more people return.
The effect of the lockdown means the cafe’s 12 staff has been reduced to three as it has hardly been able to open over the past year.
John Reeve is the curator of the art gallery there, known as Click Clock Art Gallery.
He has started taking booking from artists who have been unable to exhibit for a whole year.
He said: “Before the lockdown we were doing a lot and we are trying to encourage people into the cafe, before we had a lot of groups that would meet here.
“We opened up briefly in September but the footfall was so reduced, we were down from about 250 people a day to 30 if we were lucky.
Pictured top: Leslie Smith and Fred Mayhew enjoy a drink in the new outdoor area outside Milan Bar