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Government outlines reopening rules for pubs, cafés and restaurants

Coronavirus: Car parks and terraces can be used dining and drinking areas

Mark Moran
25 June 2020
Pubs across England have been shut since lockdown was announced in March
Pubs across England have been shut since lockdown was announced in March


More pubs, restaurants and cafés will be able to serve customers outdoors in plans announced by the UK Government.

The Government plans to simplify and reduce the costs of the licensing process for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside.

Proposed planning freedoms will mean that outdoor markets, pop-up car-boot sales or summer fairs will not need a planning application. 

Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses.

Temporary changes to licensing laws will allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Customers will be able to buy their drinks from a pub and consume them elsewhere, making social distancing easier.

Previous rule changes made in March allow food and drink business, including pubs, to offer a takeaway service.

Launching the Business and Planning Bill, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I know we all look forward to seeing our pubs, cafés and restaurants open their doors again and I’m determined to give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and their staff back to work safely.  That’s why we are introducing changes to make it quicker, easier and cheaper for them to set up outdoor seating and street stalls to serve food and drink.

Changes for the hospitality industry introduced by the Government will:  

  • reduce the consultation period for applications for pavement licences to from 28 calendar days to 5 working days, and grant consent after 10 working days if the council does not issue a decision
  • set a lower application fee for a pavement and street cafe licence of up to £100
  • remove the need for a planning application for outdoor markets and marquees, meaning they can be set up for longer
  • provide more freedoms for areas to hold car-boot sales and summer fairs.

Councils will need to continue to ensure their communities are consulted on licensing applications, that waste is disposed of responsibly, and that access to pavements and pedestrianised areas is not compromised.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “These measures will help create new summer streets and summer squares, providing people with ways to enjoy our high streets and hospitality sector safely. Alongside our recently announced £2bn investment in cycling and walking, this shows a clear focus from the government on using pavements and open spaces to make sure people can get out and about, helping people remain safe while getting back to normal life.”

The Government launched a £50m Reopening High Streets Safely Fund designed to help councils in England introduce a range of safety measures in a move to kick-start local economies, get people back to work and customers back to the shops.

The Business and Planning Bill
The Business and Planning Bill is designed to help businesses transition from immediate crisis response and lockdown, towards economic recovery. It will also help them implement new, safer ways of working to managing the ongoing risks from COVID-19, in particular the need for social distancing.

The alcohol provisions apply to England and Wales. Other measures apply to England only. Off-sales, including home deliveries and takeaways, will be allowed in the hours that alcohol can already be sold for consumption on the premises. This automatic extension will eliminate the time and cost to businesses that may wish to apply for a variation of their licence.

The new rules on selling alcohol for consumption off the premises do not apply to those who have had permission for this refused or taken away in the last three years.

Businesses should contact their local council to enquire about a licence for an outdoor stall.

The Government intends to give people greater freedom over how they use their land by doubling the length of time that temporary structures can be placed on land without needing an application for planning permission.

For the current calendar year only, the time limits in the existing right for the temporary use of land will be doubled from 14 days to 28 days for holding a market or motor car and motorcycle racing, and from 28 days to 56 days for any other purpose. This makes it easier to host markets, stalls, marquees, car boot sales and summer fairs. 

The Government is removing the requirement for councils to get planning permission to set up new markets, supporting a revival of markets and helping to transform the way people shop and socialise. 

The Bill also seeks powers to enable DVSA to issue temporary MOT exemptions to certain Heavy Vehicles on the basis of road safety risk. This will ensure vehicles with the highest road safety risk will be tested first, once testing resumes, helping ensure we keep our roads as safe as possible while testing demand needs to be managed.

The Government is making temporary provisions for bus and lorry drivers aged 45 and over to forego the need for a D4 medical in order to renew their driving entitlement. These changes are temporary and will only apply where the licence has not expired before 1 January 2020. This provision is already in place, and the legislation will retrospectively formalise the process.

The Bill includes provisions to allow the effective delivery of the Bounce Back Loans Scheme, which will allow it to operate effectively and for loans to quickly reach small businesses.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma MP said: “Our pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible. This week we gave our vital hospitality sector the green light to reopen from 4 July, and today we are introducing new legislation to enable businesses to make the most of the crucial summer months ahead.”

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