More than 3,300 fast track applications have been lodged by businesses such as cafes, bars and restaurants to expand their footprint onto England’s streets, as companies across the UK continue to go the extra mile to protect jobs, maximise revenues and ultimately stay solvent.
PwC analysed 3,366 applications across 343 civic bodies covering England’s unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs, county and district councils where the licences can be granted. Breakdowns of the 1,022 licences with available tables and chairs data placed at least 17,045 extra customer seats outside.
Pavement licences are valid for between 3-12 months, and were introduced by the UK government on 22 July 2020. The intention was to help English businesses boost customer numbers outside and partially offset the impact of social distancing and indoor restrictions on revenues.
Of the 3,366 applications tracked to June 2021, 2,061 were approved, with 350 rejected, 490 pending and 11 withdrawn. Hotspots include Westminster – which hosts more than 3,700 bars, restaurants and pubs – processing more than a third of total applications (1,310), Kensington & Chelsea (442), Hackney (95), Islington (74) in London. Across the country, there was significant uptake in Northern cities including Liverpool (348) Newcastle (103) and Bradford (54).
The absolute number of extra seats is likely to be markedly higher given the 490 pending applications and chairs data only being available for a third of applications. Also, some councils only record live applications or have reduced access to licensing registers due to council offices being closed or operating with less staff during the pandemic.
The applications were made by a vast array of businesses, including coffee shops, hairdressers, hotels, pubs, bars and cafes, luxury retailers, co-working spaces, Michelin-starred restaurants and fast-food operators. Some businesses even took the opportunity to expand into space left unused by neighbours including theatre companies in temporary closure.
Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said:
The measures, although temporary, reflect wider efforts by businesses to reposition themselves and keep revenues ticking over wherever possible. Pavement licences have been particularly popular due to the speed of processing. Applications can be approved in 10 working days in some cases. In comparison, a standard tables and chairs licence can take up to eight weeks for consultation and approval, and cost more than £1,200 for five tables or more.
Claire Fox, operational restructuring partner at PwC, commented:
What’s happening as businesses respond to social distancing restrictions being lifted?
There has been a significant spike in usage during the staggered roadmap reopening.
As the roadmap for reopening was unveiled, March, April and May 2021 recorded more than half (54%) of the total number of 3,366 applications. At least 678 were made during the period in London. In the regions, at least 1,164 requests were made for licences across the same period. Pavement licences were due to expire on 30 September 2021. However, the government has now confirmed an extension to these provisions for a further 12 months. Consequently the shift to increased ‘al fresco’ commerce is set to continue as businesses fully emerge from lockdown.
Toby Banfield, restructuring partner at PwC, commented:
Issy Gross, restructuring partner at PwC, added:
Source: © 2021 PwC.