MANY businesses have had it hard during the pandemic with pubs hit as hard as any.

Boris Johnson’s roadmap will allow pub gardens to open on April 12 but the indoors will not open until May 17 at the earliest.

Many pubs and restaurants spent heavily on making their premises Covid secure so it is galling to them that they are not going to be among the first businesses to reopen.

However, out of the pandemic comes an opportunity to reshape the way pubs and restaurants can work. Can we create a continental model where tables really do spill out onto pavements?

Last summer, Darlington tried this with Grange Road being shut to cars and the roads repurposed as outdoors dining and drinking areas. Perhaps it was just the novelty, but it created a nice atmosphere – and, of course, it allowed businesses more room to trade.

Councils, while assuring the safety of all pedestrians, need to accept that pavements can no longer solely be reserved for walking on, and they need to work with businesses to allow them to spill out – in a restrained, English, sort of way.

There is only one drawback to this great scheme, and that, of course, is the great British weather which likes putting a dampener on even the most Covid-proof of business models.