The grant of “pavement licences” was one of the temporary changes introduced to aid the recovery of ailing cafes, restaurants, bars, and pubs hit by the Covid 19 pandemic. Pavement licences could be here to stay thanks to the Government extending the duration of the temporary provisions for a further 12 months to 30 September 2023, with the possibility of even longer extensions on the horizon. 

The regulations do not automatically extend existing licences, and businesses will therefore need to apply for a new licence to take advantage of the extension. The process for applying for a licence under the amended period will remain the same.

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What is a pavement licence?

The temporary pavement licences (granted for a minimum statutory duration of 3 months) are part of a streamlined procedure allowing businesses selling food and drink to apply to the local authority to secure a licence to put removable furniture, such as tables and chairs outside on the highway adjacent to the premises for their customers to consume their food and drink. The measures were introduced as a cheaper, easier and quicker way for businesses to obtain a licence to seat and serve customers outdoors, allowing certain businesses to reopen and operate in a socially distanced environment.  

Fees (set locally) are capped at £100. However, the draft legislation (under the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill) indicates this may be set to rise to £350 in the case of a person who already holds a licence (and which is personal to the premises) and £500 in any other case, though the Secretary of State may by regulations substitute a different amount.

Can licences be granted over any highway?

The legislation relates to publicly owned land and is not to be confused with a “sitting out licence”, which is to be used when placing tables and chairs on privately owned land outside a restaurant, café and public house (such as in a shopping centre or a private estate). It applies only in England, and licences can only be granted in respect of certain highways and generally only on pedestrianised roads and footpaths and places where vehicle access is restricted or prohibited.   

What must the application specify?  

Local authorities will have their own application forms and may require other information to help make a swift decision. You must specify the purpose for which the furniture will be used, the days of the week and the hours between which it is proposed to have furniture on the highway, along with a description of the type of furniture. Evidence of public liability insurance must be supplied, and other evidence, such as a plan and evidence of the right to occupy the property, e.g. the lease.

Are there any other considerations?

It is important to note that the grant of a pavement licence only covers the placing of furniture on the highway, and businesses will still need to comply with other regulatory frameworks, such as alcohol licensing and registration requirements for food businesses for example. If alcohol is to be consumed in the area covered by the licence, the business must be properly licensed to permit such consumption. 

Duties under the Equality Act 2010 will also mean that businesses must not discriminate when providing their service.

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What will the authorities consider?

All licences granted under the temporary legislation will be subject to a national no-obstruction condition (which requires the local authority to consider the needs of disabled people) and a smoke-free seating condition, along with any conditions set by local authorities. To determine applications and set conditions, the local authority will consider factors such as risks to public health and safety, potential nuisance, security and accessibility.

The expectation is that local authorities will be pragmatic and will grant licences for 12 months unless there is a good reason for granting a licence for a shorter period, such as plans for future changes in the use of road space.


The extension of the temporary measure reinforces support for the hospitality sector as the economic impacts of coronavirus continues to be felt, and by remaining in place until the end of September 2023 gives some certainty to businesses for the future. 

Alfresco drinking and dining has become so popular that councils and businesses are working together to maximise the benefits. 

Examples of areas of Manchester that have benefited from the legislation include Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter and parts of Ancoats. Our town of Altrincham now has an abundance of cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating areas, from the previously underused space of the Not so secret garden in the Stamford Quarter to the 13th-century market hall, Goose Green and One Central areas.

The emergency pedestrianisation during the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of traffic-free areas in towns and cities and their development into safe, attractive, vibrant, and economically strong neighbourhoods.  

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If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding alfresco dining, please get in touch with our Hospitality and Leisure Solicitors.

0161 941 4000