Sitting out licence information and conditions of approval
We know that more businesses than usual will want to expand their premises on to the highway during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are happy to discuss your application with you, please contact us with any queries, though please bear with us we have a lot of requests coming in. Please ensure you have also looked at our coronavirus guidance for businesses.
The normal process for issuing a licence can take up to ten weeks including a statutory 28 days consultation period; however, to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are following a new process based on guidelines issued by the Government, which shortens the timeline quite significantly:
- the public consultation period has been reduced to five working days (excluding public holidays)
- the licence will be determined within five working days, starting the first day after the end of the public consultation period (excluding public holidays)
- if no objections are received during the 5 day notice period and the license follows our conditions, a 12-month licence will be issued
Types of licence
- New licences - when an establishment needs a sitting out licence for the first time (12 months)
- Licence renewals - to renew a licence due to expire (12 months)
Both new licences and renewals will be honoured at no charge to the applicant.
A business which uses (or proposes to use) premises for the sale of food or drink for consumption (on or off the premises) can apply for a licence. Businesses that are eligible include:
- public houses
- snack bars
- coffee shops
- ice cream parlours
A licence permits the business to use furniture placed on the highway to sell or serve food or drink and/or allow it to be used by people for consumption of food or drink supplied by the premises.
We consider the safety and needs of other highway users before granting a licence, therefore, some areas currently used for sitting out will not be granted a licence.
Consideration will have to be taken of the other businesses around you. They will also need room for customers to safely access their premises.
Extra space will be needed on the footway for pedestrian to maintain social distancing guidelines.
The following furniture is permitted:
- counters or stalls for selling or serving food or drink
- tables, counters or shelves on which food or drink can be placed
- chairs, benches or other forms of seating
- umbrellas, barriers, heaters and other articles used in connection with the outdoor consumption of food or drink
This furniture is required to be removable and not a permanent fixed structure. It must be able to be moved easily and stored away when you are not operating.
Areas of the highway that can be used for street cafes
Licences can only be granted in respect of highways listed in section 115A(1) Highways Act 1980. Generally, these are footpaths restricted to pedestrians or are roads and places to which vehicle access is restricted or prohibited.
The sitting out area doesn't need to be directly outside of the premises but we would need to consult neighbouring properties and consider any objections before granting a licence.
Government Bill covering the new sitting out process
The bill covering the new sitting out process has had assent and has become law.
Most rules are already covered in the conditions of licence however a new guideline has been added.
Applicants must take reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted
The national smoke-free seating condition seeks to ensure customers have greater choice, so that both smokers and non-smokers are able to sit outside, in order to protect public health by reducing risks of COVID transmission.
It is important that businesses can cater to their customers’ preferences. The Business and Planning Act 2020 imposes a smoke-free seating condition in relation to licences where seating used for the purpose of consuming food or drink has been, (or is to be) placed on the relevant highway. The condition requires a licence-holder to make reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted. This means that where businesses provide for smokers, customers will also have the option of sitting in a non-smoking area. Ways of meeting this condition could include:
Clear ‘smoking’ and ‘non-smoking’ areas, with ‘no smoking’ signage displayed in designated ‘smoke-free’ zones in accordance with Smoke-free (signs) regulations 2012 which can be viewed here.
No ash trays or similar receptacles to be provided or permitted to be left on furniture where smoke-free seating is identified.
Licence holders should provide a minimum 2M distance between non-smoking and smoking areas, wherever possible.
Further, business must continue to have regard to smoke-free legislation under The Health Act 2006, and the subsequent Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006.
Conditions of consent
The following conditions apply to sitting out licences: