Published: 10 April 2014
Q: I am the owner of a restaurant, licensed by a London Borough Council who granted me a Tables and Chairs Licence under the Highways Act 1980 to use an outside area. I have used this for over five years without complaint. The outside area is a very lucrative facility especially with the summer months fast approaching. Council enforcement officers came to my premises about eight months ago and although we were using the correct amount of tables and chairs within the permitted area, some of the chairs were not configured exactly as shown on the licence plan. They gave us a verbal warning. However, a couple of months later one of my customers used the area to smoke a cigarette and moved a chair. Again the Enforcement Officers saw this and this time, although we argued the point, we received a written warning. After a further identical incident some six months later, the Council enforcement officer informed me that on the third breach it is the Council’s policy to take us to a hearing before a Regulation and Enforcement Sub-Committee. At the hearing, the Committee were informed that the breach related only to the configuration of the chairs within the licence area. However, despite this, our table and chairs licence was immediately revoked! Is the action taken by the Council right and what can we do?
A: I am aware that one particular London Borough Council has employed Enforcement Officers, specifically charged with checking all licensed premises in their area for compliance with their Tables and Chairs Licence, also sometimes know as a Pavement licence.
When you initially submit your application for the outside area a plan showing the location of your tables and chairs is required to support that application. Not only do you have to comply with the conditions on the licence but you must also comply with the configuration shown on your plan. Failing this, strictly speaking you are in breach of your licence. It is important to comply strictly with the terms of the Tables and Chairs Licence and the associated layout plans.
Currently, the Council’s policy states that should an operator breach their Tables and Chairs Licence three times during a one-year period, then the matter is automatically referred to the Regulation and Enforcement Sub-Committee for consideration.
In your situation, the Enforcement Officers’ actions do seem harsh, especially since there are no provisions under the Highways Act 1980 for you to appeal the Committee’s decision. Furthermore, the draconian nature of this particular Council’s enforcement policy states that anyone who has had their Tables and Chairs Licence revoked will not be permitted to submit an application for a new licence during the following six months!
Your only real legal recourse is to apply for a Judicial Review of the lawfulness of the decision or actions of the Council. However, unless you join forces with other businesses who have faced a similar plight, the process may be lengthy and very expensive.
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