Relief from the hospitality sector as free outdoor licences are extended
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Pavement cafe culture has had a boost in Swansea after council chiefs decided to extend free licences for outdoor dining areas.
Eligible food and drink businesses will not have to pay for a licence for another year, up to the end of March 2023, but they must still apply for one.
Pavement cafe licence fees in the city were suspended in summer 2020 as society reopened following the first Covid lockdown.
Grants were also provided by the council to help cafes and restaurants buy outdoor furniture.
The weather in Swansea may dampen the al fresco vibe from time to time, but the outdoor option has been a lifeline for businesses like Cakes and Ale, Mumbles.
Owner Laurence Winmill said he lobbied councillors, including council leader Rob Stewart, from the get-go in order to secure space outside.
“If we’d not been allowed to do it, I’ll be honest, this business wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Cakes and Ale normally seats 50 to 60 people inside, but Mr Winmill said capacity was almost halved due to Covid regulations.
The outdoor area on Newton Road, which has occupied some parking spaces, can accommodate up to 25 customers.
“Particularly during the summer months it has helped save the business,” said Mr Winmill.
He added that funding to buy outdoor furniture, wooden planters and awnings had also proved a great help.
He welcomed cabinet’s decision to extend free pavement and highway licences. The council will also review the small number of businesses which have extended – with council approval – onto roads and extend these agreements as appropriate.
Mr Winmill said: “I’ve got nothing but good things to say – and long may it continue.”
The report before cabinet acknowledged there has been a balance to strike between encouraging outdoor trading but not at the detriment of pedestrians, particularly those with prams or mobility issues. The situation has led to some people in Swansea complaining to the council.
The report also said some operators had exceeded the authorised licensed area outside their premises, failed to renew licences, sought to trade beyond permitted hours and been reluctant to remove furniture. It said outdoor furniture must be easily removable.
Cabinet members said the hospitality sector was grateful for the current arrangements.
Cllr Mark Child said the scheme has been “a remarkable success”, and hoped it signalled a longer-term shift towards pavement coffee culture.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies said the pandemic had hit hospitality exceptionally hard, while Cllr Stewart said jobs would have been lost had outdoor dining not been encouraged.
Cllr Stewart added: “It’s easy to think this is something that happened everywhere, but it didn’t.”
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