Pavement cafes in York must abide by new guidelines or face “stringent enforcement”, the council has said.
City of York Council has issued the guidance to help hospitality businesses in York ensure their outdoor areas are properly licensed and not causing too much of an obstruction.
The rules were agreed at the end of last year after disability rights groups raised concerns about the way some pavement cafes were making getting around the city centre more difficult for them.
Lockdown saw an explosion in the number of pavement cafes in York after the government relaxed restrictions to help businesses, but licences granted under the emergency legislation expired in December.
There were almost 100 licences in place in York as of November.
Under the council’s new rules, businesses can apply for fast-track licences if they are able to show they can allow a minimum of 1.5 metres passing space on the pavement – unless they are located on a street with level access and no kerb, such as Coney Street.
Businesses which cannot meet this requirement can use the pre-pandemic route of applying for a pavement café area through a planning application, where changes to the street layout may be considered.
Councillors also agreed last year to change the enforcement process so that businesses which breach the rules will only be issued with two warnings, instead of three, before action is taken.
The council has the power to revoke pavement cafe licences if breaches are found.
The change to the rules caused consternation among York’s business community, with York BID warning there was a “very real possibility” businesses could close down if they could no longer trade outside.
Council analysis has shown that at least 50 percent of businesses would be affected by the change in rules.
Cllr Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said: “The new guidelines for acquiring a pavement café licence will help us support businesses to take advantage of outdoor dining whilst ensuring that our narrow city streets are kept accessible.”
Executive member for economic development and strategy Cllr Ashley Mason added: “Outdoor cafe culture is something we are keen to support and see thrive in the city, but it’s crucial that this is done in a safe and accessible manner. The new rules and support will help us do just that.
“A new panel is also being set up, so York groups and communities can share their experience of the new guidance, which, in turn, will inform any future licence reviews, possible access improvements and enforcement action, if and where required.”
York accessibility campaigner Flick Williams said: “A couple of weeks into the new licensing regime, I am happy to say that enforcement action has been swift for those cafes who were failing to follow the guidance.
“It is now significantly easier for disabled people to get around the city. For those wishing to eat and drink outdoors there are many cafes that offer this discreetly tucked away in Courtyards where they do not obstruct access to the pavement.
The rules will also be supported by more information and advice for businesses.
Residents who are concerned about pavement cafe furniture which might be in breach of the new rules are encouraged to report this to the council by emailing [email protected].