The Levelling up and Regeneration Bill was unveiled yesterday during the Queen’s Speech. The Bill will provide local leaders with the necessary powers to revitalise town centres. Amongst the many proposed reforms, the Bill aims to support vibrant high streets and to help communities thrive by “permanently scrapping” pavement licensing red-tape, freeing up businesses to serve food al fresco all year round.
To help mitigate lost floorspace during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements, restaurants, pubs and bars were granted temporary powers to serve guests on pavements. However, this power was revoked last year, meaning businesses had to apply for the necessary licenses in order to keep serving food outside. Many bodies within the hospitality industry called on the government to reintroduce this power and make pavement licenses permanent. As such, through the new legislation, these powers will now be made permanent to expand the capacity for businesses to boost local economies and inject life into local communities.
The past two years have been incredibly difficult for the hospitality industry and the hope is that refurbished outdoor spaces will help to attract customers with new offerings and a “continental culture that will hopefully bring Britain’s high streets to life,” states Emma McClarkin of the British Beer & Pub Association.
The hope is that the new reforms will inject much needed life back into the high street. However, some have argued that the measures do not go far enough and are calling for the government to permit full road closures, so that businesses can make the most out of outside dining. They argue that in areas of the country in which streets are narrow, the new reforms will not provide businesses with noticeable extra capacity. Therefore, fully pedestrianised areas would be more beneficial to those businesses, enabling them to make the most of al fresco dining this summer.
Commentators have agreed that whilst permanent pavement licences will support the ingenuity and creativity of the hospitality industry, further steps may be needed to allow that innovation to thrive.