York city centre could enjoy a continental atmosphere this summer – as restaurants and cafes roll out al fresco-style dining.
The government is making it easier for businesses to put out seating and stalls on the street, by relaxing legislation and asking councils to process applications faster.
And following City of York Council’s announcement that more city centre streets will be pedestrianised – there could be more room for outdoor cafes.
Zoe Plummer, co-owner of Ambiente Tapas which has branches on Fossgate and Goodramgate, welcomed the relaxation of rules and said the business will be looking to apply for a pavement licence.
She said: “It will add to the vibrancy of the street and it will give us very valuable space that has been lost inside buildings.
“Without a doubt it’s very continental. Many of us have been to European cities and know this makes them more vibrant.”
A nice vibe
She added that some businesses could have as little as 30 per cent of their normal capacity so outdoor seating will help and said: “But we are not suggesting a Fossgate Festival every day of the week and having people wandering around with alcohol.”
Ambiente reopens on Saturday but customers must book a table in advance/
Wes Taylor, co-owner of Fancy Hank’s Bar & Kitchen on Goodramgate, also welcomed outdoor seating plans.
He said: “I think it would be great if everybody would be allowed to do al fresco-style dining – it would be a nice vibe. It creates an atmosphere.
“We have already got two tables and would love to have more if there is space and the rest of the street does it. We are trying to be positive and upbeat about the reopening.”
Fancy Hanks already has a pavement cafe licence, but Wes said the team has also put partitions up between all the booths indoors ahead of reopening on Saturday.
Open up more space
Executive director of the York BID Andrew Lowson wants York to go further. In a recent blog, he said many hospitality businesses are confined by their layouts.
“Many simply don’t have the space to be viable under the continuing restrictions. The BID will be working with the council on ways to open more public space and increase flexibility on certain streets.
“We must do everything we can to enable more of our pubs and restaurants to return to successful trading.”
John Walker, of licensing solicitors Guest Walker based on Shambles, said: “These are very difficult times for many pub, bar, café and restaurant proprietors and this kind of legislation may be the difference between certain businesses being viable or not.”
But he warned that the relaxed rules must not lead to “drunken mayhem in the streets”, saying there will be enforcement.
He said: “It is vital that operators comply with the rules.
“There is a strict enforcement regime in place for breaches of licensing legislation that can lead to premises licences and other permits being withdrawn completely – something that would often lead to the closure of the business concerned – and York mustn’t let this relaxing of the rules lead to drunken mayhem in the streets.”