On the 31st March 2021, the Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin TD and Failte Ireland announced details of a new €17 million scheme for developing outdoor dining for businesses across Ireland.
The Outdoor Dining Enhancement Scheme (the “Scheme”) aims to increase outdoor dining capacity nationwide, to aid Irish hospitality businesses in continuing to trade while complying with public health guidelines.
The Scheme has two main objectives; firstly to enable establishments to increase their dining capacity in the short term and secondly to facilitate a long term strategy for local authorities to develop appropriate permanent weatherproof outdoor dining infrastructure.
The Scheme will provide funding for outdoor seating and accessories to help tourism and hospitality businesses offset some of the costs incurred in upgrading their premises for outdoor dining and seating. This is open to individual tourism and hospitality businesses including hotels, cafes, restaurants and attractions where food is sold for consumption on the premises,
Under the Scheme, businesses can apply for a grant of up to €4k (for up to 75% if the ex VAT cost of equipment purchased.) The following is the list of items covered by the Scheme; outdoor tables, outdoor chairs, umbrellas, electric heaters, screens/windbreaks, outdoor plant stands. The expenditure must occur between the 1st April 2020 and 30th September 2021, so it will cover those outlets who extended or improved their outdoor seating areas last year.
Applications to the scheme are made through the local authorities. Click here for more information.
Street Furniture Licence
Possible applicants to the Scheme should first verify whether or not they need also apply for a Street Furniture Licence.
A Street Furniture Licence grants permission to put tables and chairs on the footpath outside a premises. The area must be under the control of the applicant and must be suitable to accommodate the seating area. Food must also be available to be served and eaten on site.
The Street Furniture Licence, enables and applicant to extend the seating and dining area to the outdoors, however, it does not apply to the service of alcohol. Business owners intending on obtaining a Street Furniture Licence to allow them to also serve alcohol outdoors should review the conditions of their drink licence and the licensing plans approved by the Court upon the granting of the licence. If the licence does not extend to the new outdoor space, an application to the court can be made to extend the drink licence. Planning permission for the site should also be reviewed to ensure that use of the outdoor area for seating is permitted.
Where off-sales are permitted, any sale of alcohol, in a closed container, for consumption off the premises, should not be consumed within 100 metres of the licensed area.
Although there is no nationwide ban on drinking in public, each local authority can pass their own Bye-Laws and these should be reviewed closely. A failure to comply with the provisions of either the Acts or the Bye-Laws can result in the loss of the Street Furniture Licence.
Obtaining a Street Furniture Licence
The first port of call for any hospitality business will be to check the maps and/or plans attached to their title or lease documents to determine whether or not the outdoor area immediately adjoining their premises is within their boundaries.
If the outdoor area falls within the boundaries of the title / lease i.e. is privately owned, then a Street Furniture Licence may not be required and the business owner may use the area as an extension of their business. Where the business owner is a tenant, they should review their lease to confirm whether or not they have the right to use the outdoor pace in this manner. They should also obtain the consent of the landlord. Where the outdoor area is owned by (or in the charge of) the local authority, the business owner can apply for a Street Furniture Licence.
Failure to obtain a licence where required, or failure to act in accordance with the licence granted, can constitute an offence, and may result in the forced removal of the outdoor seating area.
In light of the need, due to the pandemic, to allow hospitality businesses to extend their trading outdoors, local authorities have moved to assist businesses, by automatically renewing existing Street Furniture Licences, and introducing Temporary Street Furniture Licences for businesses that did not have an existing licence. Local authorities also waived fees for Street Furniture Licence renewals and Temporary Street Furniture Licence in 2020 and it appears that many local authorities will be waiving the fees again in 2021.
In order to avail of a Street Furniture Licence, the business must prove that the outdoor area is under their control, is suitable for accommodating a seating area, and that the business is able to serve food and beverages to the public which are suitable to be consumed at that location.
The steps for applying for a Street Furniture Licence are as follows:
- Arrange a site meeting with the relevant local authority to assess the suitability of the outdoors area.
- Publish a notice in a national newspaper of the intention to apply for the licence (details of the applicant, the premises, the number of tables and size of the outdoor area should be included).
- Place a notice which is visible to the public on the premises and which summarises the content of the application.
- Complete the Street Furniture Licence Application Form (available from each local authority’s website) and pay the licence fee (if required). The initial licence fee is €100 and thereafter the annual renewal fee is €50. The annual fee per table is €125 (however, regulations have been drafted by the government this year to temporarily remove this fee) and the annual space rental charge varies from €200 to €500 depending on the zone the premises is located in and whether the outdoor area in question is greater or lesser than 4 square metres.
- The local authority processes the application and where appropriate, the licence will be granted.
- Obtain the relevant public liability insurance of €6.5m to indemnify the local authority and provide confirmation of this to the local authority.
Once granted the licence is accompanied by several general conditions
- The licensed area must be enclosed by screens.
- The design must be approved by the local authority.
- Planning permission is required for any front or side awnings used to cover the licensed area (although The Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has also stated an intention to amend the existing street furniture licence to include awnings and coverings as a new class under the licence. This would permanently remove these structures from the requirement to submit a planning application and it is hoped that these changes will be implemented in the next few weeks.)
- Additionally, the street furniture may only be placed on the street within the times specified on the licence and must be removed no later than 10:00pm daily, save for where written permission is otherwise provided by Dublin City Council.
Finally business owners should be aware that if the proposed outdoor seating area is to be used for smoking, the area must have no roof, whether fixed or mobile or alternatively, the smoking area may have a fixed or moveable roof, provided not more than 50% of the boundary is covered i.e. by a wall, windows or gate.
About the author: Hannah Brady, Solicitor on the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.