22/03/2021 - Permalink

Coronavirus: Council advises caution to Shropshire’s hospitality businesses when using outside areas

Related topics: Coronavirus / Economic growth / Health / Public protection

Hospitality businesses in Shropshire are being encouraged to work with the council to make sure their temporary outdoor seating areas don’t fall foul of COVID-19-secure rules – and help protect customers and staff. 

Under the Government’s roadmap out of the third Lockdown, venues such as pubs, cafes and restaurants could be permitted to reopen from Monday 12 April 2021.  If all is going well and these businesses get the green light to open, they will have to serve customers who are seated at tables in outdoor spaces. Customers must remain in their household group or bubble.   

As hospitality businesses prepare to reopen, they are looking for ways to increase seating for their customers and many are setting up marquees, gazebos and other structures in order to provide outdoor seating space with adequate social distancing. 

The council encourages hospitality businesses to use this time to consider carefully what outdoor areas they may wish to use, and how this will be achieved. It will be achieved either through the council’s temporary pavement licence and/or the permanent pavement permit regimes to use space on the highway, or making use of privately-owned land such as pub carparks. 

One of the greatest risks that businesses face is that the structures they put in place become too enclosed and the outdoor space is then no longer considered an actual outside space. If this occurs, these areas will not be usable until pubs, cafes and restaurants can serve customers indoors, and this will be no earlier that Monday 17 May 2021.   

Ventilation is key to controlling the spread of the virus, and this is why the restrictions are being relaxed in outside areas first. It is really important that groups do not sit in enclosed areas until the Government is in a position to determine whether Step 3 of the roadmap can be implemented: hospitality businesses have a key role to play in helping us to achieve this successfully. 

Businesses are also reminded to consider normal safety measures such as ensuring that any patio heaters used under gazebos and marquee roofs are designed for this purpose, and only used in line with manufacturers’ instructions, to ensure they are operated safely. Similar consideration should be given to electrical appliances or fittings sited outside, such as mains-powered lighting, to ensure that they are properly installed.  All adaptations need to be considered as part of an explicit risk assessment.  

It is also being highlighted that, as businesses make more use of their outside spaces, they should remain considerate of their neighbours who are potentially spending more time at home, and take steps to minimise the risks around noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour. 

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s head of trading standards and licensing, said:

“In order to be classed as ‘outside,’ any structure with a roof must have openings in its sides greater than half of its total area; it is the same calculation that prevents ‘substantially enclosed’ structures from being used as smoking shelters.

“For example, taking sides off marquees and gazebos would be one way of ensuring outside space remains outdoors for the purposes of the COVID-19-secure restrictions; however, it is important that these sides are not replaced when customers are present, as the space will no longer be outdoors, the business will contravene the COVID-19-secure restrictions, and put the health and safety of their customers and staff at risk.  Unfortunately, this principle must be followed irrespective of how cold or windy it gets, and I urge businesses to ensure they comply. 

“We very much want to help businesses get this right and to avoid them being in the position where they have installed expensive structures that are not fit for purpose to accommodate the COVID-19-secure restrictions, and also can’t be repurposed post-COVID-19 restrictions as a suitable smoking shelter.

 “The next few months are going to be very busy for the hospitality sectors and, in addition to ensuring best use can be made of outdoor space, we don’t want businesses to forget that this may impact adversely on local residents through noise disturbance; or that introducing heat sources to potentially flammable structures and installation of electrical equipment brings their own safety risks that need to be carefully managed.”

 “Whilst we are really pleased that most of the county’s hospitality businesses are responding very well to the numerous adaptations they are having to make in order to reopen safely, it is also important that they take on board these key considerations for the safety and wellbeing of their customers, staff and neighbours. 

We want to ensure that all hospitality venues are as safe as possible for people in Shropshire’s towns and villages. These measures will not only protect the physical safety of customers and staff, but significantly they will help to limit the risk of coronavirus transmission and help us move forward out of the third Lockdown in line with the current roadmap.”  

Further guidance on outdoor spaces is available here  

Businesses are strongly encouraged to seek advice from the trading standards and licensing service at advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk or on 0345 678 9026; or take advantage of a webinar that is being run on Tuesday 13 April 2021 specifically for hospitality businesses based in Shropshire. Further information about the webinar is available here.