HOSPITALITY businesses in Shropshire are being encouraged to work with the council to make sure their temporary outdoor seating areas do not fall foul of Covid-19 restrictions.

Under the government's roadmap venues such as pubs, cafes and restaurants could be permitted to reopen from Monday, April 12.

If businesses get the green light to open, they will have to serve customers who are seated at tables in outdoor spaces.

As hospitality businesses prepare to reopen, many are looking for ways to increase seating for their customers by setting up marquees, gazebos and other structures in order to provide outdoor seating space with adequate social distancing.

Shropshire Council is encouraging hospitality businesses to use this time to consider carefully what outdoor areas they may wish to use, and how this will be achieved.


It will be achieved either through the council's temporary pavement licence and/or the permanent pavement permit regimes to use space on the highway, or making use of privately-owned land such as pub carparks.

One of the greatest risks that businesses face is that the structures they put in place become too enclosed and the outdoor space is then no longer considered an actual outside space.

If this occurs, these areas will not be usable until pubs, cafes and restaurants can serve customers indoors, and this will be no earlier that Monday, May 17.

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council's head of trading standards and licensing, said: "In order to be classed as 'outside,' any structure with a roof must have openings in its sides greater than half of its total area; it is the same calculation that prevents 'substantially enclosed' structures from being used as smoking shelters.

"For example, taking sides off marquees and gazebos would be one way of ensuring outside space remains outdoors for the purposes of the Covid-19-secure restrictions.

"However, it is important that these sides are not replaced when customers are present, as the space will no longer be outdoors, the business will contravene the Covid-19-secure restrictions, and put the health and safety of their customers and staff at risk.  

"Unfortunately, this principle must be followed irrespective of how cold or windy it gets, and I urge businesses to ensure they comply.

"We very much want to help businesses get this right and to avoid them being in the position where they have installed expensive structures that are not fit for purpose to accommodate the Covid-19-secure restrictions, and also can't be repurposed post-Covid-19 restrictions as a suitable smoking shelter.

"The next few months are going to be very busy for the hospitality sectors.

"In addition to ensuring best use can be made of outdoor space, we don't want businesses to forget that this may impact adversely on local residents through noise disturbance; or that introducing heat sources to potentially flammable structures and installation of electrical equipment brings their own safety risks that need to be carefully managed."

"While we are really pleased that most of the county's hospitality businesses are responding very well to the numerous adaptations they are having to make in order to reopen safely, it is also important that they take on board these key considerations for the safety and wellbeing of their customers, staff and neighbours.

"We want to ensure that all hospitality venues are as safe as possible for people in Shropshire's towns and villages.

"These measures will not only protect the physical safety of customers and staff, but significantly they will help to limit the risk of coronavirus transmission and help us move forward out of the third lockdown in line with the current roadmap."