Making use of outside space

Last weekend I bought some daffodils – a small reminder that despite the rain currently beating down on office window, spring is here. Now is the time that restaurant, café and bar owners optimistically look for increased sales as the public recover from dry Januaries and credit card debts. As the weather turns milder, thoughts should turn to maximising the use of any outside space.

Here are some points to consider:

Use the pavement

It is often possible to utilise an outside area even if owned by the local council and hence does not fall within a property’s demise. To do so, it is necessary to apply for permission from the local council to place furniture (i.e. tables, chairs, planters etc.) on the land in question. Such permissions are generally referred to as ‘pavement’ or ‘tables and chairs’ licences and some councils also require separate planning permission to be granted. The regulations differ from council to council with the detailed requirements being beyond the scope of this article. However, readers should note that councils carefully consider pavement width, can restrict the times that furniture be placed on the highway, may grant permissions for a fixed period and demand a substantial fee! Nevertheless, even if outside tables and chairs are only actively used for a few months a year, the visual impact of them for those walking down the street can justify the high cost.

Even with a pavement/tables and chairs licence, the sale of alcohol for consumption in areas outside of a property’s demise is only permitted if the plan attached to the premises licence shows the area in question is part of the licensed area or, if off sales are permitted without any restriction conditions – such as off- sales only being permitted in sealed containers.


Maximise garden trade

Having an outside area or ‘beer garden’ is a major asset, especially in metropolitan areas. It is not unusual for the use of such areas (in particular late at night) to be restricted by either the planning permission or premises licence. However, if such restrictions are particularly onerous, they can be challenged. Consider the following:

  • Were the restrictions introduced when the premises was under previous, more disruptive, operators?
  • Can further conditions be proffered in exchange for longer hours?
  • Can soundproofing measures be incorporated such as acoustic baffles, the planting of hedges or payment of double glazing for neighbouring property?

If any of the above provide ‘food for thought’ potentially the planning permission or premises licence could be successfully varied.


Awnings and heaters

With this country’s unreliable weather, maximising the benefit of outside tables and chairs, either by the use of an awning or outside heaters should be considered. Both create their own issues. The installation of an awning usually requires planning permission to change the shop front. Planning permission is also generally required for heaters which also needs safety risk assessments. That is if the council is willing to approve heaters in the first place: they are hardly environmentally friendly!

Taking the steps mentioned above takes time – often months. Therefore, operators should think about their outside areas now if changes are going to be made in time for the, hopefully glorious, summer months.