Hospitality venues given greater flexibility to provide more outdoor space for diners

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Hospitality venues given greater flexibility to provide more outdoor space for diners

Related tags: Al fresco, Alfresco dining, Government, Coronavirus

Hospitality businesses will have greater flexibly to set up marquees and provide more outdoor space for diners as restrictions ease, the Government has announced.

The measures form part of a wider support package announced at the weekend by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, which also includes a new £56m 'Welcome Back Fund' intended to help councils boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets and food stall pop-ups.

Businesses such as pubs and restaurants, including those with premises that are in listed buildings, will be able to erect gazebos and marquees without obtaining planning permission in a bid to get more of the sector open when restrictions on outdoor hospitality settings are due to lift on 12 April.

The temporary shelters will be allowed to be kept up for the whole summer, rather than the 28 days currently permitted.

Whitehall figures suggest the bonfire of red tape will allow 9,000 additional venues to open next month rather than having to wait for indoor serving in May.

It comes after reports earlier this month that the Government was to extend planning exemptions designed to make it easier for hospitality businesses to set up al fresco dining areas​, with Jenrick writing to every council leader in the country and urging them to give restaurant and pub owners a break after a year of enforced closure.

Part of the 'Welcome Back Fund' will be allocated specifically to support coastal areas, with funding going to all coastal resorts across England to safely welcome holiday makers in the coming months.

The funding can also be used by councils to boost the look and feel of their high streets by investing in street planting, parks, green spaces and seating areas to make high streets as beautiful and welcoming as possible; run publicity campaigns and prepare to hold events like street markets and festivals to support local businesses; install signage and floor markings to encourage social distancing and safety; and improve high streets and town centres by planting flowers or removing graffiti.

Jenrick said: “As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

“As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.

“I’m allowing every pub in the country to erect a marquee in their garden for the whole summer as a one-off power to support our locals.”

The news follows a report last week that operators that have invested in alfresco dining spaces are being caught out by changes to rules on what constitutes an outside space​, as well as inconsistent enforcement by local authorities.

While the final regulations on outdoor dining spaces are yet to be published, BigHospitality​ understands that the Government is now using the Smoke-free Regulations it created for smoking shelters ahead of the smoking ban to define an outdoor space.

These stipulate that the shelter must not be wholly enclosed, or substantially enclosed, which in practice means shelter must not have sides - including doors, windows or other fittings - that can be opened or shut, that enclose more than 50% of the shelter.

As such structures including pods, greenhouses and closed-in terraces, which were acceptable in the run up to Christmas when operators in some parts of England scrambled to seat people comfortably outside because of the single household rule, now appear to be unacceptable for use.

Related topics: Legislation

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