10/03/2021 - Permalink

Hospitality businesses advised to ‘hold fire’ on outdoor seating

Related topics: Coronavirus / Economic growth / Public protection

Shropshire Council is advising hospitality businesses that they cannot yet put tables and chairs outside their premises for use by customers / the public.

This follows reports to the council’s trading standards and licensing service that some businesses are breaching this particular COVID-19 business restriction.

The current ‘roadmap out of Lockdown’, published by the Government on Monday 22 February 2021, makes it very clear that outdoor areas at cafes, restaurant, bars, pubs, and social clubs, including members clubs, will not be permitted to reopen before Monday 12 April 2021 at the earliest.

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 through either the council’s temporary pavement licence and/or the permanent pavement permit regimes.

Businesses must also undertake a risk assessment, and identify and be ready to implement appropriate COVID-19-secure measures to protect staff and customers when outside areas are permitted to reopen.

Great care will also need to be taken to ensure outdoor spaces do not inadvertently become indoor spaces through inappropriate use of wooden or plastic structures, marquees, canvas coverings and other similar constructions. Any space that is deemed to be ‘indoors’ cannot be used before Monday 17 May 2021 at the earliest.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, said:-

“We understand the difficulties faced by our hospitality businesses over the last year, and that in many cases business owners are desperate to boost their ability to trade; however, we have only just moved into Step 1 of the ‘roadmap’ at the beginning of this week (8 March) and there is no change for hospitality businesses until at least the middle of April.

“I urge businesses not to jeopardise the Government’s roadmap plans and to stick with the rules, until the green light is given for outdoor areas to reopen. The public health data is encouraging, with the COVID-19 case rates across Shropshire reducing, but we are far from being out of the woods yet; and it is imperative that all businesses continue to comply with the restrictions to secure as smooth a journey out of the third Lockdown as possible.”

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

“It is disappointing to hear that a small minority of businesses are choosing to ignore the current restrictions, and we are dealing with these in line with our Better Regulation and Enforcement Policy. It is not acceptable for us to allow this type of behaviour to go unchecked, as ultimately it will undermine the Government’s roadmap out of the third Lockdown, and my officers have a significant responsibility to ensure this does not happen.

“Enforcement action is always a last resort, and we will engage with businesses, explain, and encourage them to comply with the restrictions, before taking formal action. However, I wish to stress that we will take formal action, if all other approaches fail.”

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.