June 29, 2020
Authored by: Craig Baylis
To help food and beverage operators to maximise their capacity whilst complying with social distancing guidelines, the Bill introduces a fast track procedure for pubs, bars, restaurants and others selling food or drink for consumption to obtain a “pavement licence” from the local authority.
A pavement licence will allow operators to put removable furniture on part of the highway adjacent to their premises for use, among other things, in connection with the sale, serving, or consumption of food and drink.
The application must be displayed by site notice and must go through a 7 day public consultation period from the day after the application was made. Local authorities will then have 7 days to make a decision following the end of the public consultation period. Failure to reject the application will amount to a deemed grant of the licence. The local authority can levy a fee of up to £100 for each application. Operators must provide evidence of public liability insurance, plans of their proposed seating and risk assessments for managing Covid 19 issues such as social distancing, toilet provision and service by staff.
The local authority may specify the period of the licence (for a minimum of three months). If unlimited, the licence will expire on 30 September 2021. It is not expected that this fast track system will continue after that date as it is designed to help businesses operate over the worst phase of the Covid 19 outbreak. After that date, it is likely that the previous system of requiring planning permission and a separate pavement licence will return.
Any licence granted may be subject to conditions that the local authority considers reasonable. All licences however will be subject to a “no-obstruction condition”, preventing interference with traffic and access to other apparatus, and any condition published by the Secretary of State before it is granted.
For the purposes of any unauthorised development carried out pursuant to the pavement licence (for example if it amounts to a change of use) the licence will constitute deemed planning permission.
Provisions in the Bill temporarily vary the Licensing Act 2003 so that those holding a premises licence which only permits on sales on the day before the Bill takes effect, are automatically and immediately permitted to sell alcohol for consumption off-premises, either for take away/delivery or to drink outside the premises. Any conditions on a licence which currently restrict off sales will fall away.
The permission will only exist until 30 September 2021 and will then fall away unless made permanent.
Such sales are not permitted if, over the preceding three years the relevant licensing authority:
- Refused an off-licence application;
- Refused to vary an on-licence to allow off-licence sales; or
- An existing licence was varied to prohibit off-licence sales.