The pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, not least of all for hospitality. But one bright light among all the gloom was the introduction of outdoor seating licences. Bristol venues were encouraged to use their outside space as much as possible, with many building beautiful and enjoyable areas for customers to enjoy long into the night.
But the beauty of these outdoor seating licences was not to last, unfortunately. Back in September 2022, Bristol City Council ended pavement licences for bars and pubs in the city centre. It means all outdoor seating areas had to be closed by 11pm and furniture off the street. Suddenly there would be nowhere to sit outside with a refreshing drink in the city centre. That’s before we even mention the potential dangers of overcrowding in pubs have also been highlighted as people pack in.
“Most businesses on the street have alcohol licenses ending past midnight, ours is 2am,” said Marc Griffiths, owner of The Mother’s Ruin. “As we head into the summer, our capacity doubles with up to twenty tables on our historic cobbles. With the new pavement license, all of that will be gone. We stand to lose 600K of revenue a year.”
Imagine a summer night in the city centre with nowhere to sit. Areas affected by the license change were to include: St Nicholas Street’s The Crown, The Mother’s Ruin, Seamus O’Donells, Boardrooms and Mr Wolfs; King Street’s King Street Brewhouse, The Old Duke, The Llandoger Trow, Kongs, The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer, Hey Dude Bar, King William Ale House, Small Bar and Bristol Old Vic.
But thankfully this has not come to pass, as a recent petition to SaveOurSeats attracted over 5000 signatures. This forced the issue to be discussed at a full council meeting. Where Bristol City Council decided to let bars and restaurants in the city centre extend their pavement licences for outdoor seating. Businesses will be able to adjust their licences in line with their trading hours, which could allow outdoor seating as late as 3am in some establishments.
“Bristol’s night-time economy represents a third of the city’s workforce and is a key priority for my administration,” said Mayor for Bristol, Marvin Rees. “It’s disappointing that after the pandemic, the national government decided not to extend the legislation that had provided greater flexibility in this area… There are clear benefits to extending them beyond that time where it is appropriate to do so and, of course, striking a balance with local residents.”
Hooray! See you all outside for a drink soon.