Legal checklist: Planning for alfresco drinking and dining

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

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Alfresco eating and drinking: It's not too early to start planning
Alfresco eating and drinking: It's not too early to start planning
Fancy a bit of alfresco drinking and dining in January? Perhaps not, but if you are planning on putting some tables and chairs outside when the sun shines again, it’s actually not too early to start thinking about what permissions you may need to apply for now.

1. Who owns the land? If you or your landlord own the land you may not need a pavement licence but check with the council whether it has adopted the piece of land in question. If so, you will need to apply for a licence. The council’s highways department has a list of adopted land.

2. To place objects on the highway such as tables and chairs, barriers, planters, A-boards and heaters, you will need permission. Councils grant a pavement licence, a street café licence or highways licence.

3. If customers are standing only, no licence is required. However, check the following:

■ Any conditions on your premises licence restricting drinks being taken outside or customers standing outside beyond a certain time.
■ Whether the area is a designated public place — more commonly known as an ‘alcohol-free zone’. If it is, then if a police officer asks your customers to stop consumption or to hand over a drink and they refuse, an offence is committed. If the area is a designated public place, it might be more sensible to apply for a pavement licence or vary your premises licence to include this area, as this will then exclude it from being within a designated public place.

4. Consider whether your furniture will obstruct the highway. Think about pedestrians, wheelchairs, prams, emergency vehicles etc.

5a. Check if the council also requires planning permission for a change of use of the area.

5b. Obtain forms from the highways department. Each council will have different requirements but normally you will need to provide:
■ A plan, showing the property; building line; kerb line; table layout; points of access and dimensions; width of remaining footpath.
■ Trading times and days. Discuss with the highways department any requirements you might have and any restrictions it may impose. For example, it may not allow you to operate a pavement licence on a market day or restrict the use of the area after a certain time of night, due to vehicles accessing the area.

5c. Provide evidence you have third-party public liability insurance.

5d. Normally you will be asked to provide details of the furniture, planters and barriers (size, style etc).

5e. Pay the fee.

6. Your council will:
■ Display a notice near your premises for at least 28 days inviting any representations.
■ Write to neighbours who will be affected by the pavement licence.
■ Although the notice may be displayed for 28 days, some councils can take up to 90 days to deal with your application.

7. A licence is granted at the discretion of the council. If refused it should give you reasons.

8. If granted, it will be subject to “reasonable conditions”. Before you submit your application, check whether the council has a standard set of conditions.

A licence normally lasts for a year but some councils grant for less. Check the renewal date and ensure your renewal is with the council prior to the expiry of your current licence.

Related topics Licensing law