Pavement licences for venues with little or no outdoor dining spaces are being extended for a further 12 months in order to support the recovery of the hospitality industry.
On Monday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed he will extend provisions for temporary pavement licences to help high streets re-open safely once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Details of the announcement, which is still subject to parliamentary approval, were included in a letter sent by Mr Jenrick to local councils urging them to do ‘everything possible’ to get ready for the reopening of the country’s high streets.
However, some landlords and cafe owners in East Lancashire said the move would not be viable for them as there just isn’t enough space within their immediate vicinity to allow for outdoor seating.
Laura Smithies who runs the Brown Cow in Clitheroe, which is situated at the junction of Moor Lane and Woone Lane said: “I think it’s ok if you have a large area or a car park, or something that can be separated from the walking public, but I think it could be dangerous and hard to monitor if not set out properly.
“We would have to make a lot of money from a small area to make it worth our while.
“But what you also need to remember we live in the North of England, so relying on our weather for outdoor seating is brave.
“I think we’re resigned to the fact we’ll be re-opening in May and no sooner.”
The owner of Dolly’s Tearooms in Darwen, Suzanne Halliwell, also said the extension of pavement licences would not help her business as she is situated on a main road, and it’s far too noisy for the majority of her clientele.
She said: “We’re on the main A666 so I don’t think this would be viable for us.
“It’s noisy and my day-time customers are a little older.
“We have a court yard in any case, but I’m waiting until May to open up properly.”
Carole Davies from the Clifton Arms in Blackburn said she has also decided to wait until May 17 to re-open as relying on the Great British weather is not something she was willing to gamble on.
Ms Davies commented: “Technically we could use the side of the pub, which we use sometimes on good days in the summer months, but the Great British weather forecast is not good for the months of April or May so it’s just not viable for us.”
And Mark Jackson from Accrington’s Arden Inn was also in agreement.
He said: “My beer garden is far too small to open on April 12, and there’s not too much room at the front.
“Plus, it would be £100 for the licence so it’s not worth it. It would still be the rule of six outside as well, making it more cost effective to stay closed until the May date.”
Under measures already introduced, hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors from no earlier than April 12.
Mr Jenrick said extending provisions around pavement licences therefore, will make it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve people outside.
However, Gary Perkins, who runs a number of establishments in Darwen said it was fantastic news.
He commented: “I have just spoken to the licensing department at the council and they are in full support of us having seating outside the front of The Bank, and we are waiting for approval of the bollards being raised from Friday evening to Sunday evening, which will help us even more as we can have customers seated during the day over the weekend.
“This now means we will be able to open all of our venues before May, which massively helps with our post-pandemic recovery.
“We are very grateful of the relaxation of rules, we can’t wait to get the doors open and the staff can’t wait to get back to work.”
The extension of the pavement licence scheme will support a series of measures introduced last year by the Government to help hospitality businesses recover, which will remain in place as restrictions start to ease.
These include the relaxation of planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways; greater flexibility for land to be used for temporary events, such as markets and motorsports; and planning freedoms to allow outdoor markets, marquees, pop-up car-boot sales or summer fairs without the need of a planning application.
Mr Jenrick said: “We’re all looking forward to seeing pubs, cafes and restaurants open again as we start to gear up for what should be a great British summer.
“Therefore I’m delighted to announce an extension on temporary provisions for pavement licences for a further 12 months.
“This will give further certainty to businesses as they recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“As lockdown restrictions ease in the coming months I’m also keen to highlight the range of measures we’ve put in place to help support the safe reopening of hospitality businesses and our high streets.
“It’s vital we work together to do everything we can to help these businesses prosper again.
“That is why I’ve written to councils calling on their support to use these measures in a pragmatic way to help support the high street, businesses and jobs, once restrictions allow them to do so.”