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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Street cafe (sitting out) licence

Sitting out areas are very popular with both residents and visitors to Dorset and bring a different type of street/café culture to the area. We are keen to support these areas where it is safe to do so.

In this section

New application process

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.

All premises must use this process to apply for a licence, including premises that have had licences in the past.

The normal process for issuing a licence can take up to 10 weeks including a statutory 28 days consultation period. However, to support local businesses planning for reopening in the coming weeks, we are introducing a new process following guidelines produced by the Government:

  1. the public consultation period has been reduced to 5 working days (excluding public holidays)
  2. the licence will be determined within 5 working days, starting the first day after the end of the public consultation period (excluding public holidays)
  3. if no objections are received during the 5 day notice period and the license follows our conditions, a free 12 week licence will be issued
  4. at the end of the 12 week period the license will be reviewed and extensions may be offered

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What businesses are eligible?

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
  • cafes
  • bars
  • restaurants
  • 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.

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Permitted furniture

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.

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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.

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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.

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Before you apply

You are required to affix a clear notice to the premises, so it is easily visible to the public on the day you submit the application to us. We have provided a template for you to fill out and display:

Download a template

You must ensure the notice remains in place for the public consultation period which is a period of 5 working days starting the day after the application is submitted to us. When counting ‘working days’, public holidays are not included. You are encouraged to keep evidence of this.

Please talk to neighbouring businesses and occupiers prior to applying for your licence, and take any issues around noise, and nuisance into consideration as part of the proposal.

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Conditions of consent

The following conditions apply to sitting out licences:

  • the location and size of the sitting out area will be agreed with the council. This will be marked out to ensure that it is complied with
  • normally a minimum footway width of 2m will be required at all times between the seating area and the edge of the footway, in exceptional circumstances this can be reduced down to 1.5m over short lengths due local conditions.
  • a copy of the licence must be displayed in a prominent window fronting the sitting out area at all times
  • no “A” boards (advertising boards) or signs will be permitted in addition to the licensed area
  • advertising on umbrellas or blinds will be subject to planning considerations and should be associated with the premises rather than individual products
  • the design of any semi-permanently fixed items of furniture; (decking, lighting, bollards etc.) must be agreed prior to installation. These will only normally be allowed in pre-existing licensed areas
  • accessibility for disabled people must be allowed for
  • the Licensee will be responsible for the costs of the provision and installation of these items together with their maintenance and removal
  • the operator of the licensed area must have adequate insurance to cover the area of the licence and indemnify the council from any claims arising from the licensee’s activities
  • the council as highway authority, and statutory undertakers will have a right of access to the area at all times
  • the council, subject to a two- week notice period may withdraw the licence.
  • this licence does not cover the consumption of alcohol on the highway and the licensee should make an application to the appropriate licensing body
  • the licensee is responsible for keeping the licensed area clear of all litter and debris
  • the licensee is responsible for obtaining any permissions relating to planning, community charge issues, business rate increases and any other licences or permissions required. Including those for any powered equipment that is to be used
  • the licensee will be responsible for ensuring that they follow all coronavirus guidelines. Failure to do this will mean that the license is withdrawn immediately. No notice period will be given
  • the licensee must follow all conditions on the license. Failure to do this by the licensee or their customers will mean that the license is withdrawn immediately. No notice period will be given
  • the license runs for a 12 week period, it will be reviewed at the end of the period
  • reports of anti-social behaviour, public nuisance or any behaviour that risks the safety of others by customers, staff or the licensee will mean that the licence is withdrawn. No notice period will be given
  • applicants must take reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted

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Apply for a licence

Download an application form

Once you have completed your application please email it to along with a copy of your notice.

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View or comment on current licence applications

You can view current licence applications and make a representation.

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Contact us

If you decide to call us, please tell us where your business is located and we will direct you to the correct officer.

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