By Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News: UKHospitality seeks to pave the way towards recovery.
UKHospitality believes making pavement licences permanent will help the Covid-ravaged hospitality sector make a faster post-pandemic recovery.
The trade body says outdoor drinking and dining areas have become hugely popular over the past two years, in some cases ensuring the survival of those hospitality business unable to serve customers indoors due to coronavirus restrictions.
Responding to a recent Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) call for views on pavement licences, UKHospitality said the temporary scheme – introduced last April and due to end this September – should become permanent, and would be ‘low-cost, low-admin’.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Pavement licences have been a really positive success story, and in many cases have enabled businesses to remain open, when otherwise they would have had to close or restrict their opening hours, threatening thousands of jobs.
“As well as businesses, outdoor spaces have also brought benefits to those town and city centres previously without al fresco drinking and dining opportunities, enabling them to begin the process of levelling up, and start to enjoy the sort of outdoor experiences available elsewhere. Not only that, but by helping local economies recover – and recover faster – this will undoubtedly contribute to the long-term levelling up of the regions. The fact that the scheme has been embraced enthusiastically by a number of local authorities is hugely encouraging in itself.
“Pavement licences also revealed our sector’s ingenuity and creativity, with some truly striking outdoor spaces being created across the UK – from pods to yurts – and significant levels of investment in features such as lighting and heating.
“It’s crucial, therefore, that we press for the pavement licence scheme to made permanent, so that pubs, bars and restaurants struggling to recover from the pandemic can get back on their feet much quicker.
“This has the potential to be a hugely beneficial, low-cost, low admin scheme, and a welcome boost for an industry facing rising costs across the board, including VAT, business rates, rents, staffing and raw goods.”
UKHospitality’s consultation response also recognises that making the scheme permanent may require changes in terms of cost and how it is administered, but calls for it to remain easy to use and cheap enough for businesses to continue using it. It has agreed with a proposed £350 cap on application fees, and suggests that any new fee system should encourage and allow local authorities to offer subsidised – or even free – pavement licences, which some councils have already done with great success for businesses and local areas.