As of the 12th of April, outdoor hospitality resumed with a table service only. Pubs, cafes and restaurants have been able to serve food and alcohol in outdoor areas, since entering into Step 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown, subject to having the relevant licences and permissions.

The Government has introduced legislation to support businesses in the reopening of outdoor hospitality, permitting outdoor tables and chairs with shelters and marquees, without the need to apply for planning permission. The Government has published guidance on how outdoor shelters and marquees can be installed safely. Operators should note that a pavement licence (also known as a tables and chairs licence) will still be required when using council land next to their premises, to set up tables and chairs for their customers. However, since the introduction of the Business and Planning Act 2020, the process is made much simpler and is fast tracked. Furthermore, the council fee has been capped to £100. The usual process for applying for a pavement licence pre-Covid (including the need to apply for planning permission), not only took a number of weeks/months, but often ran into several hundreds or
potentially thousands of pounds for the privilege.

In a letter supporting the reopening of outdoor hospitality, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, stated:

“We have made clear in the pavement licence guidance that we expect local authorities to grant licences for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons not to, such as plans for future changes in use of road space. Therefore, unless there are very good reasons, we would expect licences granted under these provisions to continue to apply into this summer so that businesses do not have to reapply or be charged a further application fee when they are able to re-open to serve customers outdoors.”

This is a real breakthrough as when the Business and Planning Act was initially introduced in July 2020, many local authorities were only granting pavement licences for a three month period which meant that Operators would need to keep reapplying and incurring the capped fee. Currently, the relaxed rules concerning pavement licences, will end on 30 September 2021, but the Secretary of State has confirmed he will be introducing secondary legislation to extend the provisions for a further 12 months, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Covid-19 has placed a number of additional demands on businesses wishing to reopen, from a need to adapt data-protection policies to cover new situations in which personal data is used, to devising policies and procedures to comply with a large volume of new rules and Government guidance.

Although these are challenging times, they can also be seen as an exciting period for licensed venues in the beginning of the return to business, even if such venues are initially restricted to outdoor areas and at a reduced capacity. Restaurants, pubs and cafes can continue to provide takeaway services until 23 March 2022, subject to various exceptions.

Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement later today on how England will move into Step 3 of the lockdown roadmap, which is due to come into effect from 17 May. Restrictions are expected to be further eased for the hospitality industry so that customers can meet up indoors once again.

For further advice, please contact Joanna Onisiforou, Associate – 0207 759 1371

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