Bristol alfresco drinking is here to stay after 5k sign petition

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Positive news: Extended pavement licences a big win for Bristol's hospitality (credit:Getty/ DGLImages)
Positive news: Extended pavement licences a big win for Bristol's hospitality (credit:Getty/ DGLImages)

Related tags Bristol Food Legislation

Bars and restaurants in Bristol city centre will be able to extend their pavement licences for outdoor seating, after an online petition amassed more than 5,000 signatures.

The city council will let businesses adjust their licences to bring them back in line with their trading hours.

Owners had previously been told they may face fines if they did not close their outdoor seating areas at 22:30pm.

The council’s actions were prompted by an online campaign called ‘Save Our Seats’, pioneered by the Mother’s Ruin bar on St Nicholas Street.

While arrangements from alfresco seating were made in the pandemic, these licences expired in September 2022. This sparked fears that reintroducing restrictions could damage Bristol’s hospitality sector and lead to job cuts.

Bars and restaurants will now be able to extend their pavement licences for outdoor seating to as late as 03:00

Vibrant city

In a letter, the mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “Bristol’s night-time economy represents a third of the city's workforce and is a key priority for my administration.

“I’m proud to support amazing local businesses who have added further vibrancy to our city’s streets with an enhanced outdoor hospitality offer, it has been a really welcome addition.

“It’s disappointing that, after the pandemic, national government decided not extend the legislation that had provided greater flexibility in this area. This has resulted in the position we now find ourselves in, with some outdoor licences returning to the previous position of 11pm.

“There are clear benefits to extending them beyond that time where it is appropriate to do so and, of course, striking a balance with local residents."

Refreshing news

He added: “My office is working with Carly Heath, the council’s Night Time Economy Advisor; officers; and traders to explore the options that are available. I’m encouraged that a positive conclusion can be found.”

Heath, who is the night time economy adviser for Bristol, said: "I’ve had lots of conversations with the mayors office, operators and council officers to find a resolution on this issue. Delighted that we could work together to support alfresco hospitality as we head into summer."

Those who signed the petition had rallied behind the campaign. Many said they enjoyed sitting outside pubs in the late evening, which others called “a part of Bristol life!”

Poppleston Allen partner James Anderson said Bristol’s willingness to be prepared to allow external tables and chairs after 23.00 was refreshing and great news for the leisure industry in that city.

He added: “There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated the popularity of the alfresco experience but when hospitality is struggling it’s fantastic to read that a city appreciates the contribution made and that vibrancy and residents can co-exist in a city.”

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