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Licences and permits

Pavement cafés

  • Process for pavement café licence applications

    We issue licences for pavement cafés in Belfast.

    We previously introduced a temporary process for pavement café licence applications, with no associated fee, to help businesses recover during coronavirus (COVID-19). We have now agreed to extend this temporary licence process until 31 December 2023.

    We will then introduce a permanent pavement café scheme on 1 January 2024, with a transition and implementation period of three months (up to 31 March 2024) to allow existing licensed businesses to continue to operate until the grant of their permanent licence is determined and after which temporary licences will no longer be valid. 

    So, if you already have been issued with a pavement café licence under this temporary scheme, you will receive a new licence from us which will be valid until 31 December 2023. You will be able to apply under the permanent scheme from 1 January 2024 and we will contact you before then to give you more information on how to do this. If you do not apply before 31 March 2024 your temporary pavement café licence will no longer be valid.

    If you operate a pavement café or want to open one and haven’t yet applied to us for a pavement café licence under the temporary process, we would encourage you to do so. Please contact us to discuss your pavement café with us.  We will be able to advise you how to make an application, explain the requirements and call out to visit your premises.

    Moving to a permanent pavement café licensing scheme

    We intend that the permanent scheme beginning 1 January 2024 will mirror the existing temporary scheme.  However, associated fees may apply, applications will be considered with a less liberal approach than was deemed appropriate during the temporary scheme in terms of location, size and so on and licence conditions may be amended, or new ones added to address specific issues. It is also intended that the permanent scheme will include increased monitoring and enforcement activity with regards to both licensed and unlicensed pavement cafés. A consultation exercise is being carried out prior to implementation of the permanent scheme to inform any changes that are required.

  • Public consultation on our permanent pavement café licensing scheme

    Before bringing in the permanent pavement café licensing scheme, we are carrying out a consultation exercise to gather views about pavement cafés in Belfast and positive and negative experiences and issues that have occurred since the temporary licensing scheme was brought in. Our consultation will inform the implementation and detail of the permanent scheme, including:

    • Associated fees
    • Duration of a pavement café licence
    • Standard Licence Conditions
    • Our guidance (location, layout and accessibility requirements and so on).
    • Enforcement

    The Your Say public consultation survey (link opens in new window) will be live for eight weeks during October to November 2023. We would encourage anyone with a view on pavement cafés in Belfast to complete it.

    Pavement café operators

    If you already have a temporary pavement café licence or have applied for one we will be contacting you directly with a link to a tailored survey. 

    If you have not yet applied for a licence we would also like to send you a link to a tailored survey – please contact us by emailing and ask for a link.

    Engagement workshops for business and disability representative groups

    We will also be holding workshop engagement sessions for business and disability umbrella representative groups. We will be issuing invitations for these, however, if you would like to attend to represent a disability group or group of businesses, email  

  • Types of premises requiring a pavement café licence

    A pavement café licence authorises a person who operates a business supplying food or drink (in or from premises) to place furniture on a public area for use by customers. This includes:

    • cafés
    • restaurants
    • pubs
    • retail outlets providing refreshments
    • takeaways
    • supermarkets with a deli counter
  • How much does a pavement café licence cost?

    We have waived application fees for temporary pavement café licences. The temporary scheme has been extended until 31 December 2023.

    We had previously set a £255 pavement café licence application fee plus a £55 annual licence fee for years 2 to 5 of the 5 year licence period. Views on the fee and the duration of the licence are being sought during our public consultation exercise and we will confirm what these will be for the permanent scheme before it starts on 1 January 2024. 

  • Guidance for pavement café licence applications

    We have published advice on making an application and what we will consider appropriate for a pavement café licence including:

    • pedestrian and vehicular access
    • size and layout
    • likely disturbance to other businesses or residents
    • furniture design
    • safety issues 

    Before submitting an application, read our guidance to check if your proposal will meet all the criteria. Our guidance will be reviewed following our public consultation.

  • How to apply for a pavement café licence

    You can apply online and submit the required documentation later by emailing

    Apply for a pavement café licence 

    We can also send you the application form and guidance information if you email, or by post if you call 028 9027 0650.

    This is a temporary scheme which has been extended and will now expire on 31 December 2023. We are currently consulting on a permanent scheme to be introduced on 1 January 2024.

    View consultation for pavement cafés

  • Documents needed

    You must send us certain documents with your application form.

    If you are applying online, you must make sure you have these documents ready to upload.

    1. Site location map

    You must provide a map (preferably Ordnance Survey) showing the proposed pavement café area marked in red and the adjoining streets and properties.

    2. Proposed café plan

    You must provide a plan of the proposed pavement café area, the streetscape and all utilities and services including lampposts, bollards, fire hydrants, manholes, cycle stands, litter bins and any other items of street furniture located within the immediate vicinity. The dimensions of the proposed pavement café area must also be shown.

    There are examples of pavement café plans in our guidance information.

    3. Details of the furniture

    We will need details of the number, materials and types of chairs, tables, umbrellas to be provided in the café. It would be helpful if you include photographs, manufacturer, detailed brochures of proposed furniture or photographs of existing furniture.

    4. Public liability insurance

    Public liability insurance cover with minimum indemnity of £5m will be required. You must send us a public liability insurance declaration completed by both yourself and your insurance company or broker.

    More details are provided in in our guidance information.

    Print and complete our public liability insurance notice

    or email to request the public liability insurance document.

    5. Management plan and risk assessment

    If the café is to be located away from the main premises or patrons or staff will need to cross a public pavement to reach the café area, you must provide a management plan and risk assessment. The plan must outline how this will be done to protect the safety of staff, patrons and other people using the pavement.

    6. Public notice

    You must fix a public notice to the premises on the day you apply to us. The notice must be positioned so the public can see it for 28 days. Interested parties can make representations to us about your licence application.
    We suggest that you take a photograph showing the public notice in place and send us the photograph with your application.

    We will publish licence applications on our website until the end of the period allowed for representations.

    Our guidance information includes a draft public notice template.

    View a draft public notice for a pavement café licence application

  • Application by a licensed premises

    A premises licensed under the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 must provide details of their Liquor Licence to assist us process the application and to enable us to notify the court if your application is granted. The pavement café area will be treated as part of the licensed premises.

  • Consulting other organisations

    We recommend businesses discuss their proposals with adjacent property occupiers to inform them of the pavement café application.

    When assessing your application we will also consult:

    • DfI Roads
    • Police Service for Northern Ireland where the premises are licensed to sell alcohol
    • other council departments, organisations or individuals as appropriate
  • Hours of operation

    We will set the days and hours of use for the pavement café area. We take into account location, likely disturbance to local residents, street cleaning, other businesses and representations from interested parties.

    We usually grant pavement café licences for set hours between 8am and 11pm but consideration will be given to times that are reflective of the normal operating hours of the business and any local restriction.

  • Granting or refusing a licence application

    We consider each application on its own merits. But it may not always be possible to accommodate pavement cafés in all locations due to factors such as visual impact, width restrictions, obstructions or heavy pedestrian flow. If there are objections to the granting of the licence from other interested parties such as DfI Roads, PSNI or other local businesses, we must take these into consideration before an application can be granted.

  • Objections and appeals


    If we receive objections to an application which are not resolved through mediation, the application will be referred to our Licensing Committee for further consideration. If this happens, both you and anyone who objects to your application, will have the opportunity to present a case to the committee.


    If your application is refused, you can appeal the decision to the Magistrate's Court within 21 days of being notified of our decision. Licence-holders may also appeal a decision to suspend or revoke a licence or vary the area and conditions of a licence (as an alternative to revocation), or to limit the duration of a licence.

  • Objecting to or supporting a licence application

    If you want to object to or support an application for a pavement café licence, you must send us a written submission before the closing date for objections or support. You must outline your reasons for objecting to or supporting the pavement café.

    You can email or post:

    The Building Control Manager
    Building Control Service
    Ground floor
    Cecil Ward Building
    4-10 Linenhall Street
    BT2 8BP

  • Report an issue with a pavement café

    If you want to make a complaint or raise an issue about an existing pavement café (licensed or unlicensed) please email or call 028 9027 0650, and we will investigate.

  • Pavement café licence applications

    When a business in Belfast applies for a pavement café licence, we publish information about their application. You can support or object to a pavement café application. There is a deadline for objecting or supporting an application.

    If you would like to see a licence application, email 

  • Licences applied for or issued

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Contact us

For more information and advice, get in touch.

028 9027 0650

Building Control, Ground Floor, Cecil Ward Building, 4-10 Linenhall Street, Belfast, BT2 8BP

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