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Helsinki’s open-air dining terrace on Senate Square attracts 400,000, may reappear in 2021

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) says city officials will discuss bringing back the mega-terrace next summer.

Kuvassa on Helsingin Senaatintorin jättiterassi heinäkuussa 2020.
The patio had seating for 830 people, but drew an average of more than 6,000 customers a day over the past two months. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Helsinki officials say that a giant terrace set up for al fresco dining and drinking on Senate Square this summer was a major success. Since opening at the beginning of July, the plaza attracted some 400,000 customers, says Peggy Bauer, director of the neighbourhood commercial association Torikorttelit.

The outdoor dining area, with dozens of vendors and seating for 830 people, was quickly embraced by city-dwellers and tourists.

Though originally designed to help the cities’ restaurants get through the coronavirus crisis by offering a safer place to serve customers, many entrepreneurs hope that the terrace will become a regular feature of the city summer.

The dining area in the historic square was open for the last time this summer on Sunday. Restaurateurs say they are baffled by critical voices saying that outdoor dining and drinking was inappropriate for this historic square. It was built as the heart of the city in 1812, overlooked by the massive white Lutheran Cathedral since 1852.

Roni Saari of Bar Runar says the setting is ideal.

"That sounds a little strange. This is a good place for this kind of activity. The sun shines here from morning to evening," he tells Yle.

Enlivening the old city centre

Entrepreneurs say that besides offering the restaurant sector a buffer against the pandemic slowdown, it has also brought much-needed life into the old city centre.

"This has certainly benefited many others who operate here in the centre," says Bauer.

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) says discussions about the future of the mega-patio concept will begin soon.

"The clear starting point is that if the experiment was successful, then we’ll look into the possibilities of more permanent operations," he says. "I’m glad that the coronavirus has enabled this kind of experimental culture in Helsinki and that the Senate Square terrace has been a big success."

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