Hospitality sector advised to secure permission for trading outdoors
John Finnegan, partner at Belfast-based law firm Millar McCall Wylie.
John Finnegan, partner at Belfast-based law firm Millar McCall Wylie and one of the leading licensing solicitors in Northern Ireland, has been speaking about some of the licensing issues faced by pubs, hotels and restaurants if they do not obtain the required permission to trade outside.
In response to the many challenges presented to the hospitality sector by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many pubs and other licensed businesses in Northern Ireland have maximised their outside space.
“Pubs, hotels and restaurants have, understandably and commendably, been doing all they can to keep trading during these difficult times and that has often meant using outside areas to increase capacity safely,” he said.
“Given the pace of events, it hasn’t been possible for all businesses to take the necessary steps to protect their liquor licences. It has been reassuring to see a common-sense approach taken by the authorities so far, but there is now clear communication that trading outside without permission won’t be tolerated long term. The risk here is that fines and even forced closures may happen if business owners don’t take action.
“We have seen a number of city centre premises make use of the Pavement Cafes legislation, which allows a business to apply to the local council for temporary permission to use an adjacent public space for tables and chairs. This means customers can be served in an open-air setting, in keeping with current trading restrictions.
“A more permanent solution is available to those businesses that have, for example, a rear yard or other outside space within the boundaries of their own premises. A beer garden, outside smoking area or similar can be permanently licensed for serving customers, via an application to the county court.”
Millar McCall Wylie is offering complimentary advisory consultations around the licensing process to members of the hospitality industry.