Coronavirus: Renewed calls to ease outdoor area regulations

Streamlining of process crucial so al fresco trading can begin as soon as possible

TRADE groups have again urged the Scottish Government to ease planning and licensing requirements to enable operators to use outdoor areas as soon as lockdown measures are eased.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), UK Hospitality and Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), working with licensing lawyers Jack Cummins of Miller Samuel Hill Brown Licensing and Caroline Loudon of TLT, have submitted a ‘wish list’ of measures they would like to see implemented to allow the trade to utilise outdoor space as quickly as possible.

Under the Scottish Government’s ‘route map’ for easing lockdown restrictions outdoor areas are to be allowed to reopen, with physical distancing and increased hygiene measures in place, in phase two. The Scottish Government announced the implementation of phase one on Thursday May 28, which took effect on May 29, and is legally bound to review lockdown restrictions every three weeks, with the next review due on June 18; no date has yet been given for phase two but many in the trade are hopeful it will be implemented from June 19.

Trade groups have urged the Scottish Government to streamline the licensing and planning requirements for outdoor areas so the trade can utilise outdoor space as soon as phase two gets the go-ahead.

They are calling for the addition of ‘off-sales’ and ‘outdoor drinking’ to premises licences by a minor variation (this would usually require a major variation) on a temporary basis; for operators to be able to use additional outdoor space, either by adding it to the premises licence through a minor variation or, where that is not possible, using occasional licences – and for licensing boards to cut the processing times of occasional licences from four to six weeks to within ten days; for the relaxation of planning rules, including for awnings and temporary structures; for a blanket reduction of the fee for Section 59 permits; for the relaxation of conditions on occasional licences and outside areas on full premises licences, such as extending the use of areas beyond 10pm where appropriate; and for boards to charge a set fee for major variations with a maximum fee of £400, and simplify the notice period for major variations, reducing the period of notice from 21 days to 14 days.

The trade groups also say the definition of an ‘outdoor area’ is key. “What is ‘wholly and substantially enclosed’ has been defined in The Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006,” they said. “Given the Scottish weather, and varying degrees of success in running outdoor areas over the ‘summer’ months, the trade may well look to use temporary structures such as marquees. While these will not be used for smoking, the 50% rule may assist in assessing the suitability of structures and what may be classed as ‘outdoor’.”