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Licences and permits

Pavement cafés

  • Process for pavement café licence applications

    We issue licences for pavement cafés in Belfast.

    Moving to a permanent pavement café licensing scheme

    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 introduced a permanent pavement café licensing scheme with a transition and implementation period up to 30 April 2024. This allows 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 can now apply under the permanent scheme. If you do not apply before 30 April 2024, your temporary pavement café licence will no longer be valid.

    If you operate a pavement café but didn’t apply to us under the temporary process, or want to open one in the future you should apply under the permanent scheme.  Contact us to discuss your pavement café with us and we will be able to advise you how to make an application, explain the requirements and call out to visit your premises.

    Our permanent pavement café scheme mirrors the existing temporary scheme in many aspects, however, fees have been introduced and we have revised standard licence conditions. 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. It is also intended that there will be increased monitoring and enforcement activity with regards to both licensed and unlicensed pavement cafés.

  • Public consultation on our permanent pavement café licensing scheme

    We carried out a consultation exercise for eight weeks (October to November 2023) 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 informed on 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
  • 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 long does a pavement café licence last?

    A pavement café licence is granted for five years. You can apply to vary your pavement café licence during this period.

    The legislation allows us to suspend or revoke a pavement café licence if required during the licence period.

  • How much does a pavement café licence cost?

    The fees which we had previously set will now be applicable to pavement café licence applications.  

    Type of application Fee
    Application fee     £225
    Annual licence fee (years two to five of the five-year licence period)     £55
    Renewal application fee     £112.50
    Variation application fee £112.50


  • 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. 

    Following our public consultation about moving to the permanent licensing scheme, we are continuing to engage with disability groups on reviewing the detail of our guidance.    

    Contact us to discuss your pavement café proposal if you have any queries about the guidance or concerns around meeting its requirements.

  • How to apply for a pavement café licence

    You can apply online for a pavement café licence.

    Apply for a pavement café licence 

    For your application to be considered valid, you must include:

    • a location plan, showing the location of the pavement café (outlined in red) and the surrounding area
    • a site layout plan showing the layout of the pavement café area and its surroundings, for example, pavement café and footpath dimensions, barriers, obstructions (like bins, trees, signs), and
    • application fee (£225).

    Apply by email or post

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

    You will have to pay the application fee of £225 – you can pay by BACS or post us a cheque. Let us know how you want to pay when you make your application.

    Tacit consent does not apply – this means that you do not have approval to put out tables and chairs and operate your pavement café until we have granted your licence.   

  • 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 (PSNI) 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 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 7am and 11pm.

    Where individual circumstances dictate that these hours are deemed unsuitable we may either extend or restrict the standard times as appropriate.

    Hours may be set to reflect the normal operating hours of the business or 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.

  • Licence conditions

    These are a set of rules established to govern the behaviour of operators running a licensable business. They cover various topics and set requirements that all licensees must meet to hold a licence.

    We must include a condition stating that temporary furniture cannot be placed on any public area other than the area covered by the licence.

    The Act also permits the council to specify any other conditions it considers reasonable, and these may include conditions:

    1. limiting the furniture which may be placed on the area covered by the licence by reference to the kind, amount, size or nature of the furniture
    2. limiting the days or times when the furniture may be on that area
    3. for securing that adequate arrangements are made for storing the furniture when not on that area
    4. regulating the arrangements for payment to the council of fees
    5. for securing that such insurances and indemnities as may be specified in the licence are put in place
    6. requiring the council to be notified of such matters as may be specified in the licence
    7. requiring the surrender of any other pavement café licence in respect of the premises.

    We agreed revised standard licence conditions for Pavement Cafés following our public consultation on moving to the permanent licensing scheme. Premises-specific special licence conditions may also be attached to individual licences. 

    Before we issue any pavement café licences, we will discuss them with applicants as well as any applicable special conditions to make sure their obligations as a licensee are clearly understood. 

  • 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 to:

    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), 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

Pavement cafés licences

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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