New scheme for restaurants to serve customers outside more easily

Pubs and restaurants across the Black Country and Staffordshire could soon be able to serve customers outside more easily as part of measures to help social distancing.

The Government has announced “pavement licence” schemes to allow venues to serve food and drink at tables outside their premises.

But some councils are charging businesses £100, while others are removing the fee.

The measures, which have just gone through Parliament, aim to make it easier for hospitality businesses to add al-fresco areas by cutting the time it takes to obtain a licence.

The normal 28-day period of public consultation on a licence application would be cut to just seven days and if a local authority does not determine the application within the set timescale, permission can be granted automatically.

Stafford Borough Council approved the scheme this week, but will charge businesses £100.

Whereas Lichfield District Council is removing fees for the new pavement licences..

The council will waive its pavement licence fees to remove another hurdle and offer additional support for local businesses that have faced significant financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Angela Lax, cabinet member for regulatory, housing and health, said: “We want to do all we can to help businesses across the district to successfully recover from the challenges faced during these difficult times.

“On top of being free, the revised process will make it simpler and faster for businesses to apply for outdoor space on the pavement. This will help them to attract more customers who wish to enjoy the wonderful array of food and drink options available throughout our district.”

Dudley Council is also introducing the new scheme, and charging businesses £100.

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member responsible for licensing, said: "Our hospitality sector has been hit hard during this pandemic with many, even though they are now open, still struggling to operate due to the limited number of people allowed on the premises.

"This new temporary licence will allow some businesses to extend their outdoor space, hopefully allowing them to accommodate more customers and boost their trade while crucially continuing to follow the latest social distancing guidelines.

"This is another way we are supporting businesses within this sector as they begin their road to recovery."

Cannock Chase District Council will discuss the scheme on August 13.

And a spokesman for Walsall Council said: “The new procedures and policy for how Walsall Council will process pavement café licences will be brought before a meeting of the licensing and safety committee on August 12 for ratification.”

In Birmingham, the city council has begun accepting applications from businesses.

Councillor Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With businesses still required to comply with social distancing we know that they are keen to use as much space as possible to maximise capacity for customers.

“By introducing this fast-track system, applications will be processed quickly to enable businesses to reap the benefits as soon as possible. In addition, the reduced cost is intended to help hospitality businesses of all sizes as they begin to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.”

The fee for the new temporary pavement licence will be capped at £100 for all table numbers within a single application process.

Wolverhampton and Sandwell councils did not provide a response.

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