Operators stung by inconsistent enforcement of outdoor trading rules

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Rules for outdoor dining restaurants and pubs

Related tags Coronavirus Alfresco dining Pub & bar

Some local authorities appear to not be taking a consistent, light-touch approach to the enforcement of Coronavirus-related regulations requested by the Government as operators reopen for outdoor trading.

On Thursday (8 April) Cube Bar and Kitchen in Poulton, Lancashire, was told it would have to reduce the number of heated outdoor booths and remove the cover of a courtyard-style seating area despite the configuration being cleared to trade between July and November. 

The trading area is far less enclosed than a number seen by BigHospitality that have been declared Coronavirus secure by other local authorities. 

General manager Danielle Mellor was told she could only open every other and has to alter the bookings of 1,200 people this week alone. 

“It’s been a real pain. We’ve had to take some of our Covid-protection screens out which wasa cost we weren’t expecting. The space is quite open and the booths have three open sites but the council says they don’t meet the requirements for a smoking shelter.”

“We’ve lost some bookings but for the most part we’ve managed to move people to the middle of the space. They thought they were getting a heated booth but have ended up in an uncovered space. They have been very understanding and we’ve managed to get some blankets to keep people warm. Hopefully it won’t rain.”  

The Government recently announced that businesses such as pubs and restaurants, including those with premises that are in listed buildings, will be able to erect gazebos and marquees without obtaining planning permission in a bid to get more of the sector open today (12 April).

The temporary shelters will be allowed to be kept up for the whole summer, rather than the 28 days currently permitted. To be considered ‘outdoors’, shelters, marquees and other structures can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open at all times whilst in use.

Yet a number of other operators were caught out when structures - including pods, greenhouses and closed-in terraces - that were acceptable last year were targeted by some local authorities. 

Upcoming London venue Chameleon based a large part of its business plan around being able to trade outside within greenhouses but has now been told that the structures may not be able to seat guests until indoor dining resumes on 17 May while Brighton restaurant The Chilli Pickle was told to reduce the height of the bamboo barriers that protect people from the wind and the rain within its outdoor seating area.

Hospitality trade bodies UKH, BII and BBPA have issued guidance for operators following ‘wildly differing – and often incorrect – interpretations’ of some of the new rules’ being sent to businesses by some local authorities. 

For a detailed analysis of the rules for outdoor eating and drinking head here.

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