The new Government Guidelines issued 23rd June are a massive step towards restarting the hospitality industry. We hope that a return to profitability will follow on the understanding that life will not go back to pre COVID-19 days. One positive assist from Government is the relaxation of the use of external drinking restrictions specifically in urban locations when sometimes the only outside space is the pavement. Previously that pavement space had been used by cigarette smokers. That use was ‘transient’ and did not require regulatory control or an official Licence. Just imagine how restricting it will be to walk into a pub and have no standing at the bar, and drinks being served to customers seated at well-spaced tables. One minor problem is that when you enter you will have no idea if there is space for you to safely enjoy your experience. That is why the addition of using and maximising pavement drinking space is essential.
BUT the chances are that the pavement area is not contained within the curtilage or boundary of the Deed plan of what you own or lease. More than likely it will be owned by the Local Authority. In normal times pre COVID the Local Authority would have, on request, granted a Licence of Pavement Occupation and charged an annual fee. There would be an agreed strict limit on the number of tables and chairs and in some cases (Islington and Camden for example) even insisting on tape to be affixed to the pavement to show the limit of use. This was also being done to ensure that pedestrians could still safely use the remaining pavement space and not have to step into the road and fight with the traffic. What was sometimes called a “pram width” pedestrian space .All quite logical. Even safer if the whole street has been closed off as now being proposed for some of the central London streets.
We would suggest that it is better to “go legal” and contact your Local Authority to sort out the Licence of Occupation of pavement space. The sooner the better in the light of full reopening on Saturday 4th July. Yes, there will probably be a small licence fee but that is unavoidable. This also links in with your third-party liability insurance. If you have pavement use consent, then there will be an authorised ‘safe’ drinking area. If an accident does occur outside that delineated space, then it may not necessarily be your liability. You will have been seen to have done all that you can to ensure safety. The outside drinking space extension will be vital to add to profitability. Better to have the Local Authority on your side with the necessary approvals than have some Council jobsworth come along, probably right in the middle of a busy lunchtime service and ban the use of the pavement until the paperwork is in place.