Pavement cafes could prove a lifeline for Lancashire businesses
Restaurants, bars, pubs and eateries across Lancashire have been urged to apply for a pavement cafe licence as coronavirus restrictions continue to limit their operations.
The government has made changes to make pavement café licensing quicker and cheaper.
And cafe owners battling to entice customers back after lockdown have said their outside seating areas have been invaluable because of social distancing rules.
Sean Kiernan, who runs South American coffee shop Cafune in Market Place, Preston, said: “The outside area is very important for us.
“During the pandemic some people still don’t feel confident enough to go inside shops even with all the safety and hygiene measures.
“So the outside areas give people more confidence to go out to their favourite shops and still feel safe.”
Sean, who runs the premises with wife Livia, said they applied for a pavement cafe licence last year.
They had only recently reopened the premises at reduced capacity after lockdown, so the outside tables were very important.
He said: “We are in a really good spot opposite the Flag Market.
“Some people are still uncertain about sitting inside so having tables outside makes people feel more comfortable.”
Owners need a licence to place tables and chairs outside their café, bar or restaurant on the highway.
The changes aim to offer a quicker application process for a pavement café licence.
The move is a temporary measure to support businesses selling food and drink, because social distancing guidance reduces the number of customers that can be served indoors.
And use of outdoor space is also seen as a positive way to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
A spokesman for The Cow Shed coffee shop, Liverpool Road, Penwortham said its outdoor space had come into its own lately: “ We have an outdoor seating area on the road front.
“It’s quite a generous space and luckily the weather has been on our side!
“We have halved the number of tables inside the shop but have managed to put the other half out the front and keep them full all day every day.
” I think this has been a massive help - people can see straight away, before they have even entered the premises that we are keeping ‘Covid safe’ and everyone is still social distancing.
“There are lots of lovely eateries in Penwortham on the pavement and from what I can see, those who have reopened already, are doing great!
“It’s lovely to see our community alive again.”
One senior Lancashire councillor described the move as a “game changer” for many establishments trying to battle back after lockdown.
Preston city councillor Robert Boswell, cabinet member for environment and community safety, said the council currently licensed 30 pavement café areas under the Highways Act 1980.
A report to set the application fee at £100 is to be considered by Council on August 20.
Coun Boswell said: “We welcome applications for pavement cafes, as a well-designed layout in the appropriate location can positively enhance the experience.
“We also recognise the importance of the hospitality and leisure sectors’ need for outdoor space as they seek to welcome more customers, whilst adhering to social distancing requirements.”
Coun Sue Jones, cabinet member for environment at South Ribble Borough Council, said: “We welcome the Government’s introduction of a new, quicker, easier route towards obtaining a pavement café licence.
“Clearly, with a limitation on indoor customers, we want to get as many people seated outside as possible – and acquiring this pavement café licence allows cafés , bars and restaurants to increase, or indeed introduce, outdoor capacity.
“I am pleased to hear this news and I hope it makes a real difference to businesses right across South Ribble who are attempting to return to profitability or in some cases to just stay afloat.”
She added: “Here in South Ribble, we have received one pavement café licence application which our Licensing Team is currently processing as swiftly as possible.
“We hope that, in conjunction with the Government’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme, hundreds of businesses in South Ribble will find that the month of August is the beginning of their fightback, following some desperately difficult months.
Any South Ribble cafés, bars or restaurants who wish to apply for a pavement café licence should visit the council’s website.
Coun Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, said: “I am delighted to say that Chorley Council has facilitated outdoor table service for numerous cafés, pubs, bars and restaurants in Chorley.
“We identified this early on as a great initiative to help small businesses with their recovery, and we have already seen great results – with many customers now enjoying a coffee, beer or meal outside.
“Seating customers outside is clearly safer, with social distancing between tables a lot easier. Premises that have a small interior will especially see the benefits, and it is these small independent outlets that I am particularly pleased to be helping.”
He added: “The coronavirus has dealt us all a massive blow in so many different ways but now that some restrictions are being eased, I am happy to see Chorley adapting as well as it can and making the best of a bad situation. “
Coun Alistair Morwood, executive member for public protection at Chorley Council, added: “I am aware of countless cafés, bars, pubs and restaurants for whom this additional outdoor seating capacity will be a total game changer – helping them to welcome many more customers and get more money through the till.
“Allowing customers to sit outside is not just good for businesses – it’s also safer for the customers and during this warm weather is also a welcome option.”
Each council can charge a fee for licence applications up to £100.
Business leaders have also shown support for the concept.
Mark Whittle, manager of Preston City Centre Business Improvement District, said: “ Given the weather we have enjoyed recently, and the fact that the application process has been simplified, and the costs reduced, this could prove a good way for venues to safely create some additional capacity.”
“We would encourage any business who wishes to apply for a license to contact the City Council without delay”.