Beer Gardens

You don’t necessarily need separate Planning Permission to use land for a beer garden or drinking terrace.

However, the moment you want to put anything on that land – whether it is tables and chairs, signs, parasols or a smoking shelter – you may be required to get planning permission.

When considering these types of application, the council will consider the noise and visual impact your proposed use of the land will have on your neighbours.


What counts as an outdoor space?

A space is considered outdoors if more than 50% of its area is open, outdoor spaces can have a roof however more than half of the wall section will need to be permanently open. This rule also applies to temporary structures such as marquees or shelters that may be put up to provide extra cover. When making your calculations you should consider doors, windows and other coverings to be in a closed position, even if you intend to keep them open when trading.  

For some venues that do not currently have a beer garden or outside seating area, there is the option to apply for a pavement cafe licence. Local councils are offering quick and easy temporary pavement cafe consent to assist with getting businesses back up and running. This temporary scheme runs until September 2022 and allows for the use of pavements for chairs and tables to seat customers. The application fee is capped at £100 and is often free of charge.It does not require planning permission or architectural approval, however it is not the same as a typical pavement cafe licence, and has different criteria for businesses to fulfil. To see if the scheme is applicable for you, check with your local council or get in touch with our team

Erecting temporary shelter 

With the initial lockdown easing of rules only allowing for outdoor seating, many venues will be looking to expand their outside spaces to accommodate more customers. Whilst rules and restrictions are relaxed to help with the transition back to normal service, there are still rules that must be adhered to. 

Normally, erecting structures such as shelters and awnings to provide cover in a beer garden requires planning permission, and permanent structures such as smoking shelters also need to satisfy environmental health regulations. With regards to lockdown rules easing, more businesses will be looking to add temporary cover to guard against rain and adverse weather. While rules on these are relaxed, public safety must be considered.  

In the interest of public safety, before erecting any outside temporary structures such as marquees, tents, gazebos, parasols or similar, a risk assessment must be carried out and you must implement suitable control measures to ensure that any structure is secured safely and doesn’t pose a risk of harm to customers. Your fire risk assessment might also need to be altered to accommodate the new structures. If you are unsure whether your plans are suitable, get in touch with our team.

The rules for customers

Following guidance from the government, groups of up to six people are allowed to meet outside, or in a group of any size as long as they only consist of two households.

Customers are required to wear masks or face covering in a pub, restaurant or similar until seated unless medically exempt. Venues must clearly display signage at all entrances indicating to customers that they must wear a mask or face covering. Customers must also wear a mask or face covering when moving through the venue to get to the beer garden or to use the indoor toilets.

Unlike previous rules, there is no requirement to purchase food with any drinks. Customers may purchase drinks, food or both.

Customers not abiding by the rules may be refused service.

The rules for venues

For venues, customers from separate groups must be kept at least 2 meters apart. Customers may be seated within 1 meter if placed back to back, if this isn’t possible then customers less than 2 meters should have physical barriers to separate them such as plastic dividers.

Food and drink can be served but venues will be table service only. Customers must remain seated whilst eating or drinking, and must only leave the table to go to the toilet, enter or leave the venue. Customers may use indoor toilet facilities and walk through buildings to access any outdoor seating, but must be instructed to wear a face covering while doing so.

Staff must wear masks or face coverings when indoors or when interacting with customers in close proximity. Businesses are expected to provide these to staff, however they may wear their own if preferred.

Noise levels

As with all normal aspects of a venue, controlling noise levels to an acceptable level is essential to avoid noise complaints and being a nuisance to the wider community. With the increase in the number of people using outdoor seating areas the levels of noise coming from customers is likely to increase. 

Recorded music may be played, but noise levels must be kept low. Live music is permitted, but it must be complementary to customers eating and drinking and not the main reason for customers to visit, admission fees or tickets are not allowed to be sold to enforce this. Customers must remain seated and must not take part in communal singing, dancing or mingling.

There is no curfew in place for customers to leave by, but businesses must monitor noise levels to ensure that late night noise isn’t disruptive to local residents.

Licencing amendments

If you are serving customers in a beer garden or outside space from your regular bar you are unlikely to have to make any amendments to your licence.

As noted above, using any public space such as a pavement for tables and chairs requires permissions from the local authority. The temporary pavement cafe scheme can help with the temporary use of public spaces while lockdown restrictions are eased. After September 2022, businesses wishing to use pavements will need to apply for a pavement cafe licence.

The Government has announced that current pavement licences have been extended for an additional 12 months, making it easier for businesses to adapt to the different circumstances over the coming year.

With the government’s roadmap to restrictions easing, businesses should be able to start welcoming customers back safely. From the 17th May, customers will be allowed to sit indoors, still with some restrictions.

If you are unsure of any restrictions or rules in regards to the use of your beer garden or have any queries in regards to your licence, get in touch with our team today. As one of the country’s leading entertainment venue solicitors, we can help you evaluate the need for planning permission in your case and make any necessary applications on your behalf.


Planning Permission

Formal permission from a local authority for the erection or alteration of buildings or similar development or for the change of use of land from one designated purpose to another.