Outdoor licensing restrictions could be relaxed

Following the announcement that pubs, bars and restaurants can re-open from 4 July, and the guidance issued encouraging the use of outdoor space for food and drink service to help keep people safe, the Government have drafted legislation and draft guidance to enable more pubs, restaurants and cafes to be able to serve customers outdoors.

The government are proposing to simplify and reduce the costs of the licensing process for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses.  Temporary changes to licensing laws will allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Customers will be able to buy their drinks from a pub and consume them elsewhere, making social distancing easier.

Below is a summary to help.

Draft guidance: pavement licenses (pavement seating proposal)

  • This new process introduces a streamlined and cheaper route for businesses such as cafes, restaurants and bars to secure a licence to place furniture on the highway.
  • The fee for applying for a licence under the new process is capped at £100 and the consultation period is 5 working days (excluding public holidays), rather than the current 28 days.
  • If the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period (which is 5 working days beginning with the first day after the public consultation period (excluding public holidays), the licence is deemed to have been granted for a year (but not beyond 30 September 2021) and the business can place the proposed furniture such as tables and chairs within the area set out in the application for the purpose or purposes proposed.
  • A business which uses (or proposes to use) premises for the sale of food or drink for consumption (on or off the premises) can apply for a licence. Businesses that are eligible include: public houses, cafes, bars, restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, and ice cream parlours.
  • A licence permits the business to use furniture placed on the highway to sell or serve food or drink and/or allow it to be used by people for consumption of food or drink supplied from, or in connection with the use of the premises.  Furniture includes chairs, tables, umbrellas, barriers, heaters.
  • Licences can only be granted in respect of highways listed in section 115A(1) Highways Act 1980. Generally, these are footpaths restricted to pedestrians or are roads and places to which vehicle access is restricted or prohibited.
  • The grant of a pavement licence only permits the placing of furniture on the highway. Other rules still apply such as the need for alcohol licenses and the need to comply with registration requirements for food businesses.
  • If the applicant has a licence to serve alcohol on-premises temporary amendments to the Licensing Act 2003 will allow them to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises without needing to apply for a variation of their licence.
  • No separate planning permission will be needed if a licence is granted.
  • The licensing authority can specify the duration of the licence, subject to a minimum duration of 3 months. The expectation is that local authorities will grant licences for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons for granting a licence for a shorter period such as plans for future changes in use of road space.
  • If an applicant has already applied for permission to place furniture on the highway under the existing regime and their application has not been decided they can either continue with that application, or make a fresh application for a pavement licence under the new process. In those circumstances the pending application will be deemed to have been withdrawn. If the fee for the pending application was paid the authority will not be permitted to charge a fee for the new application for a pavement licence.
  • Local authorities will take into account a number of factors in making decisions which will include public health and safety, public amenity, and accessibility.
  • When an application is made under the new process, local authorities can either: grant the application in whole or in part; grant the application with conditions, such as a limit to the maximum number of chairs and tables, type of furniture, time and days of operation; or refuse the application.  There is no statutory appeal process for these decisions,
  • The local authority will have powers to enforce the conditions of a licence or revoke a license.
  • You can read the full draft guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pavement-licences-draft-guidance/draft-guidance-pavement-licences-outdoor-seating-proposal
  • The press release about the guidance and bill can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-outlines-support-for-pubs-cafes-and-restaurants?utm_source=d3fc5f25-9b19-4109-a6d0-77f1f2ed37ae&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate
  • The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading today, Thursday 25 June 2020. This stage is formal and takes place without any debate.  MPs will next consider all stages of the Bill in one day on Monday 29 June 2020.  The full ‘Business and Planning Bill is available here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0148/200148.pdf

If you are a restaurant, café, pub or bar and would like to have or expand outdoor seating in Blackburn town centre, please make sure you have let me know:

  • Your business
  • Where you would like outdoor seating (or to extend your current outdoor seating)
  • Number of tables, chairs and any other furniture e.g. barriers (including size)
  • Days and hours of the week you would like the (additional) provision.

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