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Guidance for applicants during the temporary scheme

Pavement café licensing



Under the provisions of the Licensing of Pavement Cafés Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 we may grant Pavement Café Licences. A pavement café licence authorises a person who carries out a business involving the supply of food or drink (in or from premises) to place furniture (such as tables or chairs) in a public area for use by customers, and we may grant pavement café licences on such terms and conditions and subject to such restrictions as may be reasonably specified in the Licence.

In June 2020, we introduced a temporary process for considering pavement café applications to assist the hospitality sector during the recovery period following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. This scheme has been extended and will now expire on 31 December 2023. 

A permanent pavement café scheme will then be introduced on 1 January 2024, subject to Council ratification, 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.

It is intended that the permanent scheme 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.

The permanent scheme aims to be consistent in approach, with the good practice guidance used and in fees charged (when appropriate), with the rest of Northern Ireland, whilst taking into account Belfast specific issues or views.

The permanent pavement café licensing scheme has the objectives of:

  • facilitating the controlled expansion of suitable premises, such as cafés, restaurants and pubs, providing small businesses with an opportunity to boost their income, in support of a vibrant daytime and evening economy and for the general wellbeing of the community.
  • ensuring Belfast has well-regulated pavement cafés, having a positive effect on commercial environments, enhancing the attractiveness of local areas and contributing to an excellent visitor experience.
  • encouraging pavement cafés while ensuring that they are properly situated and managed. There is scope to ensure they enhance the locality in which they are to be situated and not create undue noise or other nuisance to residents or neighbouring businesses. A key consideration prior to licensing will be that the pavement café does not obstruct the footpath or footway and does not present a hazard for pedestrians, particularly those with a physical or mobility disability, sight loss or who are blind, carers and people with dependants.   

To implement the temporary licensing scheme the following guidance for applicants, based on the Department for Communities guidelines and supplementary guidance from the Licensing Forum Northern Ireland was produced. In general, this guidance has proved effective. We have only carried out a limited up-date of this guidance at this stage but will review it further and make any necessary changes to reflect any feedback obtained through our stakeholder consultation in order to improve or supplement our guidance for applicants, before the permanent scheme is implemented.

It is not intended that this guidance should be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of the law which is contained only in the Act and Regulations made under it.


Includes tables, chairs, umbrellas, barriers, heaters, menu boards or other approved fittings.

Licensed area
A public area as defined on a plan approved by us as a pavement café.

Licensed period
The days and hours approved by us when the licensed area can be used as a pavement café.

Licensing Order
The Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

Pavement café licence
The permission given by us to allow the placing of temporary furniture on a specified public area for customers to consume food or drink supplied from the licence holder’s premises.

Public area
A place in the open air, to which the public has access, as of right and which is not a market area.

Public nuisance
Noise disturbance or other nuisance caused to local residents or neighbouring businesses.

Temporary furniture
Furniture that can be removed from the pavement within 20 minutes.


Our power to Licence pavement cafés is contained in the Licensing of Pavement Cafés Act (NI) 2014 and associated Regulations.

Purpose of this guidance?

This guidance document has been prepared by Belfast City Council (“we, us or our”) to help business owners to prepare an application for a Pavement Café Licence.

This document is for guidance only and is not intended to be a legal interpretation of the legislation.

What is a Pavement Café Licence?

A pavement café licence authorises a person who carries on a business involving the supply of food or drink (in or from premises) to place furniture (such as tables or chairs) on a public area, most commonly on the footpath, for use by their customers.

Pavement cafés located on private land, for example within the curtilage of the site of the business premises do not require a pavement café licence. However, other statutory approvals may be required for such pavement cafés.

A licensed pavement café area will remain a public place and is therefore subject to all other legislation applicable to such areas, except for alcohol bye-laws in certain circumstances.

If the area outside my premises belongs to someone else and not adopted by DfI Roads, do I need a licence?

Yes. Each application will be considered on its own merits. You need to provide a copy of the landlord’s consent, lease or licence.

The area outside my premises is owned by me, but the public have access to it. Do I need a licence?

In general yes, however each application will be considered on its own merits and if you have clear control of access to the area, even though it may seem to be publicly accessible we may consider it to be private and a pavement café licence will not be applicable. Please contact us to discuss the proposed area with us before submitting your application.

Who may apply?

Any person or persons who carry on a business (in or from a premises) involving the supply of food or drink to the public, may apply for a pavement café licence. Businesses that can apply for a pavement café licence include cafés, restaurants, pubs, retail outlets providing refreshments, hot food takeaway, supermarkets with a deli counter and so on.

Is the area you want to use suitable for a pavement café?

Appendix 1 of this guidance document offers advice on what we will consider in assessing applications including:

  • Pedestrian and vehicular access.
  • Size and layout.
  • Likely disturbance to other businesses or residents.
  • Furniture design.
  • Safety issues.

In general, the pavement café area will need to be set-up immediately adjacent to the premises. However, a Licence for a remote pavement café may be granted when:

  • The proposed café does not interfere with vehicular or pedestrian traffic flow, and
  • The Licence holder is able to demonstrate that they will be able to exercise proper control and supervision of the remote pavement café area.

Hours of operation

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

Licences will normally be granted for set hours between 8am and 11pm and will be reflective of the normal operating hours of the business and any local restriction. If the premises is licensed under the Licensing Order for the sale and consumption of alcohol, a pavement café licence will not be issued beyond 11.30pm, regardless of the additional operating hours that may apply to the premises under liquor licensing legislation.

Unlicensed pavement cafés

It is an offence to place furniture (for the use for the consumption of food and drink) on a public area without a pavement café licence. We will take a graduated approach to enforcement in line with its Regulation and Enforcement Policy.

We have the power to remove any furniture placed on the pavement without a licence where it is considered necessary to do so, and may recover the costs reasonably incurred in removing and storing this furniture.

Making an application

Before submitting an application, please read this guide thoroughly to check whether your proposal will meet all the criteria. You are also advised to contact us to discuss your proposals before submitting your application. This may help to minimise time wasted for applications which may later be refused.

When making an application for a pavement café licence you must also provide us with:

Site location plan

A site plan must be provided (preferably an ordinance survey map) showing the premises, the proposed pavement café area and the adjoining streets and properties.

Licence fee

We have waived application fees for temporary pavement café licences.

Following our current consultation on transition to the permanent scheme we will know what fee will be applicable for the permanent scheme.

The pavement café licence application fee agreed by us previously was £225. If it is confirmed that this fee will be applicable to applications under the permanent scheme, from 1 January 2024 you must pay this fee when making your application. 

Once your pavement café licence is issued you will also need to pay an annual licence fee for each subsequent year of your licence period. We previously agreed that this would be £55 for years two to five of a five year licence period. 

Views on the fee and the duration of the licence are being sought during the public consultation and will be confirmed by us before the permanent scheme starts.

Proposed café plan

A plan, drawn to scale, must be provided of the proposed pavement café area, the streetscape and all utility services and street furniture including lampposts, bollards, fire hydrants, manholes, cycle stands, litter bins, seating or benches located within the immediate vicinity. The dimensions of the proposed pavement café area must also be stated on the plan.

Please see Appendix 4 for examples of pavement café plans.

Details of the furniture

You must give us details of the number, materials and types of chairs, tables, umbrellas, outdoor heaters and so on to be provided in the pavement café. Some of this information can be included in the proposed café plan, however photographs or manufacturers, detailed brochures of proposed furniture or photographs of existing furniture would be helpful.

A pavement café licence does not permit food or drink serveries, fridges, ice cream machines, drink machines, BBQs, rotisseries or other products to be located within the licensed area. 

Other information

Public liability insurance cover with minimum indemnity of £5m will be required. See our public liability insurance guidance note.

Licensed premises

Premises licensed under the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 will be required to provide details of their Liquor Licence to assist us in processing the application and to enable us to notify the court if your application is granted. This is because the pavement café area will be treated as part of the licensed premises for the purpose of the Licensing Order.

Management Plan for remotely located pavement cafés

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, then you must provide a management plan.

Public notice

Applicants are required to fix a public notice to the premises on the day the application is made to us. The notice must be positioned so as to be visible to the public for 28 days. Interested parties can make representations to us such as an objection in respect of an application within this period.

You must complete the declaration on the application form stating that you have erected the required notice and that you will maintain it in place for 28 days from the date of application.

We suggest that you take a photograph showing the public notice in place and submit the photograph with your application to us.

A template for the Public Notice is provided at Appendix 3. We would urge all applicants to use this template.

It is also recommended that businesses discuss their proposals with adjacent property occupiers to inform them of the application.

In addition, we will make the application details available to be viewed by the public on our website until the end of the period allowed for representations.


When assessing the application, we will also consult with the following:

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

Can my Licence application be refused?


Each application will be considered on its own merits. Due to factors such as visual impact, width restrictions, obstructions or heavy pedestrian flow it may not always be possible to accommodate pavement cafés in all locations.

As an alternative to refusing an application, we may suggest changes to your proposal to meet the licensing criteria and make it acceptable, such as by amending the size and shape of the licensed area.

If your proposal fails to meet the criteria and your application is refused by us, you will be informed of that decision.

Should an application be refused, the applicant may appeal the decision to the Magistrates’ 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.

How long will it take to process my application?

We aim to provide you with a determination within five weeks from date of receipt of a valid application which includes all the required plans, liquor licence information (where applicable) and the public liability insurance.

If there are objections to the granting of the licence, or other input from consultees, this period may be extended to consider those objections or representations. If objections cannot be resolved the application will then be taken to a meeting of our Licensing Committee, at which objector and applicant can make representation, and the Committee will decide whether to grant or refuse the licence. 

Appendix 1: Suitability Criteria for Licence


The pavement café must make a positive contribution to, and must be in keeping with the surrounding area, other buildings and public realm. Simple robust designs will be preferred, and excessive or elaborate detail or signage should be avoided unless clearly justified by the particular context.

Pavement café proposals should not hinder reasonable use of the footpath, cause nuisance to adjacent frontages, or interfere with apparatus or access to apparatus on the footpath. To this end the applicant is expected to comply with all statutory requirements and obtain all necessary permissions before trading.

Size and layout

Each application will be considered on its own merits on a site by site basis, taking account of the characteristics of the site, the space available and the proposed layout of the café area. The pavement café will also need to be designed in such a way as not to compromise access where applicable.

Any pavement café design or plan should be compliant with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Department for Infrastructure criteria.

The licensed area should:

  • Avoid conflict with the principal lines of pedestrian movement, particularly for disabled people, older people and those with mobility needs including pram and wheelchair users.
  • Avoid conflict between customers going in and out of the café, passing pedestrians and those accessing neighbouring premises.
  • Ideally be confined to the frontage of its own premises with close integration of internal and external activities, however this does not preclude a remote location.

It is not appropriate to set a standard size for pavement cafés. The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will determine the appropriateness of pavement café applications, taking account of the site characteristics, the space available and the proposed layout, using their professional expertise following their own guidance documents.

For examples of pavement cafés and the plans required to be provided please refer to Appendix 4.

The proposed licensed area used must take into account other activities in the immediate vicinity (such as kerbside parking, loading bays, bus stops, emergency vehicle access, emergency exits, street cleaning machines, and pedestrian crossings).

Where an application contains a proposal to establish a pavement café abutting neighbouring premises, we would advise that the applicant should discuss their proposal with the owners or occupiers of the adjoining premises before an application is made.

It is important that no obstructions such as tables, chairs, menu boards, planters or barriers are placed outside the licensed area or left on the pavement or any part of the licensed area outside the approved hours.

Pavement café boundaries and enclosures

When in use, the licensed area should ideally be enclosed by way of adequate screening, to demarcate the area to make it distinguishable to other pavement users, and to assist blind and visually impaired pedestrians. Portable barriers must have solid or fixed horizontals and verticals (tap rail), with the upper and lower rails set at 1000mm and 100mm above ground level respectively. Rope barriers are not considered suitable. Bases should not cause an obstruction or tripping hazard to pedestrians. In relation to smaller café areas with limited pavement width, we may only require barriers at each end of the licensed area.

All furniture must be removed outside the licensed period and also when the pavement café is not operating within the licensed period. It should be possible to remove everything in 20 minutes. The materials used should, therefore, be lightweight in construction and portable, but stable enough to prevent collapse if accidentally walked into or overturned by a gust of wind.

The design of the barrier should complement the character of the surrounding area and may be required to be of a specific design in order to maintain continuity along the street frontage. The colours and materials used for the enclosure should ensure that it is not visually dominant when viewed from further away but will allow key elements to stand out against the background when closer to it.

Well maintained planters can be particularly attractive and could be used as part of the means of enclosure, but must be positioned within the licensed area and must be removable. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to use existing permanent street railings or planters as a suitable means of enclosure. 

Furniture and its storage

Furniture should be of a high quality, uniform in style, capable of being moved in and out of premises. Only furniture approved by us may be used.

In order to safeguard those with a visual impairment, it is important that furniture should generally be of one colour (preferably in black, grey or dark green) and non-reflective wherever possible.

  • Metal furniture should be chrome, brushed aluminium or powder coated in a matte finish;
  • Timber is acceptable;
  • Plastic should generally be avoided but if used must be of a durable industrial grade with a matte finish;
  • Parasols should be of the heavy-duty commercial type and suitably secured by purpose designed pavement weights to avoid being blown over.

All furniture items, such as menu boards and portable gas heaters need to be approved as part of the licensed area and details must be included in the application. Where heating is to be provided, this must be of a type suitable for outdoor use and shall be placed within the licensed area. If patio style liquid petroleum gas (LPG) heaters are to be used, they must be adequately secured upright, be fitted with a flame failure device and be maintained on a regular basis.

All furniture must be of a temporary nature that can be removed within 20 minutes at the end of the licensed period or when access to the area is required by any statutory body or in the event of an emergency. The application must explain where the furniture will be stored after the licensed period.

If the main premises operate for longer than the licensed period the applicant should give consideration as to where the furniture is to be stored, this should be made clear within the application.

Environmental implications and other requirements

It will be the responsibility of the licensee to keep the licensed area clean and the general area free of litter generated from the licensed area. Care must also be taken to ensure that litter does not stray or get blown further afield, during the licensed hours and at the conclusion of business each day. This will include the cleaning of spillages and breakages, especially of glass and crockery must be cleared up immediately.

The conduct of customers using the licensed café area will also be the responsibility of the licensee.

All food premises should be registered with us.

The licence does not create or imply an exclusive right to use the licensed area. The licensee must be aware that us and other statutory bodies reserve the right to gain access to the street café area for cleaning, repairing and maintaining the highway or street furniture. Other organisations, may also require access for the maintenance and repair of their equipment.

For some major events, such as a parade, concert or sporting fixture, you may, for reasons of public safety and security, be requested to remove all your outdoor furniture and equipment while the event is taking place, even if it is within your licence times. We therefore reserve the right to suspend the licence temporarily if, for any reason, it becomes necessary.

The licence will not permit the use of musical apparatus, amplified music or loudspeaker equipment. Entertainments licences for outdoor musical entertainments are not applicable to public ground such as a licensed pavement café is located on. If you wish to provide entertainment, email or call 028 9027 0650.

Licensees must promote a safe, clean and generally welcoming environment in the pavement café area.
Licensees may wish to consider, for the convenience of their patrons, dividing their licensed café area into smoking and non-smoking sections, with each section clearly marked.

Licensees are reminded that they must comply with the Smoke free legislation. If you are unsure of these requirements, email on for advice on the Smoke free legislation.

Safety and Control

It is the responsibility of the licensee to ensure that the pavement café area and the equipment used complies with all appropriate legislation in relation to food safety, health and safety and alcohol consumption requirements.

Applicants are reminded of their duties, to carry out a risk assessment, under the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 as they relate to the area and activities covered by the pavement café.

Applicants proposing to licence a café which is remote from their main premises or where customers and staff need to cross a public pavement to reach the café area, must provide a management plan and risk assessment for the pavement café detailing how it will be managed and supervised.

Appendix 2 contains our standard Conditions of Licence. These conditions will be applied to any licence granted by us. We may also place additional terms and conditions on the licence as and when they consider it appropriate.

Planning Issues

You should also consider whether you require Planning permission. There are three reasons why you might need consent from our Planning Service and these are described below.

Planning permission for a change of use

Planning permission will be required for a change of use of the land if the pavement café is to be located on the public highway or outside the curtilage of the premises.

Planning permission for physical structures or alterations

Planning permission is not normally required for a pavement café with temporary furniture. However, planning permission may be required for proposals that are more permanent.

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions then you may need to submit a planning application.

  • Will any street furniture (such as tables and chairs) be permanently fixed to the ground?
  • Will there be any other permanent fixtures and fittings outside the building?
  • Do you intend to make any alterations to the shopfront?
  • Do you intend to add a permanent or retractable awning to the shopfront?
  • Do you plan to erect a permanent or fixed means of enclosure (such as a barrier, wall or railings) on the street greater than one metre in height?

Advertisement Consent

You may also need Advertisement Consent to erect any new advertisements. However, the regulations allow certain types of advertisement to be erected without the need for Advertisement Consent. Advertisement Consent is normally not required provided that:

  • The advertisement is displayed for the purposes of identification, direction or warning, with respect to the building on which it is displayed;
  • The advert does not exceed 0.3 square metres in area;
  • The advert is not illuminated;
  • No character or symbol is more than 0.3 metres in height;
  • No part of the advertisement is more than five metres above ground level

Planning applications

Where planning permission or Advertisement Consent is required, a planning application will need to be submitted to our Planning Service for each type of consent. Each planning application is assessed on its own merits, taking into account factors such as the impact of the pavement café on the character and appearance of the area; amenity (such as noise impacts on any nearby residential properties); heritage (including impact on a Conservation Area, Area of Townscape Character or the setting of Listed Buildings); and highway safety, especially the safety and wellbeing of pedestrians.

Further advice

If you have any doubt about whether you need planning permission or require further advice if you know that you require planning permission, email or you can call 028 9050 0510.

Consumption of alcohol

Alcohol may be consumed in a licensed pavement café area where the premises are licensed under the Licensing Order unless

  • The business is an ‘off sales’ as defined under Article 5(1) (b) of the Licensing Order, or
  • We have prohibited the consumption of alcohol where it is likely that there would be disorder caused by permitting consumption of alcohol.

Appendix 2: Standard Conditions of Licence

The following are the existing standard conditions which will be applied to any licence granted by us. The majority of those conditions have proven appropriate during the temporary scheme, however there is scope to clarify and augment some of those Conditions, particularly in relation to street cleanliness issues and issues around removing and storing pavement café furniture. Through our stakeholder engagement we will explore views on any suggested revisions to these conditions and amended or new standard conditions may be introduced. We may also place additional terms and conditions on individual licences as and when they consider it appropriate.

  1. The Licensee shall be responsible at all times for compliance with the terms and conditions of the Pavement Café Licence.
  2. The licensed area must only be used to place temporary furniture for the purpose of consuming food or drink supplied from the licence holder’s premises.
  3. The Licensee shall at all times ensure that the pavement café furniture is not placed outside the licensed area.
  4. Only furniture permitted by us shall be used in the licensed area and such furniture shall be placed in accordance with the layout plan as agreed in writing by us.
  5. The licensee shall only place furniture on the licensed area on those days and during those hours as permitted by the licence.
  6. Any furniture provided in the licensed area shall not mark or damage the surface of the pavement.
  7. Furniture should be sufficiently portable that it can be removed within 20 minutes.
  8. Adequate storage approved in writing by us must be provided to ensure that furniture can be stored securely when the premises are closed.
  9. The Licensee shall ensure that adequate Public Liability insurance cover is in force to cover the licensed area and provide proof of that insurance upon our demand.
  10. The licensee shall ensure good order is maintained during all times the Pavement Café is open.
  11. The licensee shall ensure that the pavement café is operated in a manner ensuring that there is no safety risk, nuisance, public health issue or detriment to amenity caused to other users of the highway or nearby premises.
  12. This licence does not in any way permit the playing of live or recorded music for the entertainment of customers in the licensed area.
  13. The licensee must have in place a commercial waste collection contract and provide proof of that contract upon our demand.

Appendix 3: draft public notice template

View a draft public notice for a pavement café licence application

Appendix 4a: Examples of pavement cafés layout plans

Appendix 4A diagram

Appendix 4b: Examples of pavement cafés layout plans

Appendix 4b diagram

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