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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Apply for a licence

Download an application form

Once you have completed your application please email it to highwaysearches@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk along with a copy of your notice.

The Business and Planning Bill, which establishes a new temporary form of pavement licence and relaxes laws for off-sales in certain circumstances is proceeding at a slower pace through the House of Lords than the single day it took to go through the House of Commons (29 June). With the third and final reading in the House of Lords being tabled for 20 July, and assuming there are no amendments requiring further Commons debate, the Bill might receive Royal Assent (and become an Act) at the end of July. This will mean that we will not be able to formally grant licenses until the end of July.

We would ask that businesses still continue to apply for licenses and display the public consultation notice until a license has been agreed. We will continue with the consultation process and the preparation of licenses, this will enable us to grant licenses as soon as the bill receives Royal assent.

We will contact you to discuss your application as soon as it is received.

View or comment on current licence applications

You can view current licence applications and make a representation.

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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