Legal Q&A: external furniture and impact of bankruptcy

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Alfresco style: Check you can use the ‘highway’
Alfresco style: Check you can use the ‘highway’
The latest legal Q&A from specialist licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen addresses external furniture queries and how bankruptcy impacts a personal and premises licenses.

External tables and chairs

Q: I have just taken over a restaurant on the high street with some tables and chairs outside and a council highways officer has told me that I do not have permission for these and they must be removed. Is this correct?

A: Probably! It is worth investigating. Unfortunately, on the purchase of premises, the issue of tables and chairs is often overlooked.

Your local council can grant permission, often called a ‘highways’ or ‘pavement’ licence for tables and chairs and other structures to be put on the pavement. The principle is that the council owns and controls the ‘highway’ and therefore to put things on it needs their consent.

It is not possible legally to transfer these usually and you probably assumed that because tables and chairs are outside and may have been for a number of years that the requisite permission has been obtained and renewed annually.

However, this is not necessarily the case and many structures outside many premises (not just licensed premises) for example blackboards and A-boards do not have permission and the council can request that these are removed.

It is definitely worth checking the land where the tables and chairs are is not part of the ‘highway’, in which case, permission would not be needed. If it is highway then I am afraid an application will be needed for permission using the local council’s standard form and complying with its requirements.

There will be a consultation period and the principal criterion is public safety and whether there is sufficient width (usually around two metres) for pedestrians to pass by. If there has historically been a highways licence there that has not been renewed, your local council may take a reasonably relaxed view to you retaining them during the summer months but they do have the power to remove them – if, following its request, you fail to do so. It is always worth checking not just the premises licence but the position in relation to outside trading when looking to acquire premises.

Bankruptcy and licences

Q: It has been a difficult 18 months and I am about to be declared bankrupt. I run a pub with my wife and want to understand what will happen to the premises licence, which is in my name, and my personal licence.

A: The bankruptcy will not affect your personal licence. That licence will stay in place and you can continue to be named as a designated premises supervisor, if you currently are.

However, the bankruptcy will impact upon your premises licence, which will automatically lapse when you are declared bankrupt. Any trading thereafter would be illegal and you could be prosecuted.

My advice would be to look to transfer the licence into the name of your wife if she is not subject to any bankruptcy proceedings. That way, the licence will remain in force and you can keep running the pub together with your wife. If you haven’t already done so then you should take some advice upon the impact of the bankruptcy upon your assets (which could include the premises licence depending on how you run the pub with your wife, and it could impact upon any joint assets that you hold with your wife, which may include the lease).

The bankruptcy will also impact upon your future earnings. There is a useful guide on bankruptcy at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-bankruptcy​. If you are a BII member, you could call its free legal advice helpline.

For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website​.

Related topics: Licensing law

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