The Northern Ireland Executive continues to further ease restrictions, following the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on the Hospitality Sector. 

Last week the NI executive announced that a number of sectors of the Hospitality Sector could re-open from 3 July 2020. These include;

  • Restaurants, cafes and coffee shops;
  • Bars and public houses selling food and alcohol on a table service basis
  • Bars and public houses with outside spaces, such as beer gardens, will be able to use these spaces to serve alcohol on a table service basis;
  • Hotels are permitted to open along with their restaurants, bars and outside spaces. (However hotel spas and leisure facilities are not permitted to open yet)

New Guidance

The Department for the Economy has now published detailed guidance to help businesses in the hospitality sector as they prepare to reopen and work safely from 3 July 2020 while social distancing measures remain in place. 

This guidance titled ‘Working safely during COVID-19 in the Visitor Economy sector’ is for business owners, operators and workers in hotels, indoor and outdoor attractions and experiences, as well as hospitality businesses. It provides guidance on how to maintain a safe environment and manage social distancing and what to do if a customer has a suspected case of Covid-19. 

It has been broadly welcomed by the sector and industry bodies with Hospitality Ulster stating that “The publication of the guidance is good news in the sense that it allows those parts of our industry that can reopen on the 3 July, to make preparations for reopening”.

Hospitality Ulster have released practical guidance to the hospitality sector. The document titled ‘COVID19 - A Practical Guide for the Hospitality Industry’ goes into detail on a range of key risk assessments that businesses will have to consider ahead of reopening including staff protection, cleaning and social distancing.

Tourism NI has also published additional sector-specific guidance for working safely in hotels and tourist accommodation and  restaurants, pubs, bars and food services. Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen stated: "The advice will allow businesses to undertake unique risk assessments and translate this into specific actions.

Pavement Café Licences

Under the current guidelines, the 2m rule in respect of social distancing remains in Northern Ireland. In order to continue to operate effectively and remain financially viable the thoughts of many in the sector have turn consider utilising outdoor spaces much more than ever before.

Northern Ireland Councils control the licensing of café pavements under Licensing of Pavement Cafés Act (Northern Ireland) 2014. 

The Pavement Cafe licence authorises a person who operates a business supplying food or drink, in or from the premises, to place furniture on a public area outside their premises for use by customers. This includes cafés, restaurants, pubs, retail outlets providing refreshments, takeaways and supermarkets with a deli counter.

This week Belfast City Council issued temporary guidance in respect of Pavement Café licences and temporarily waived the application fee throughout Belfast Council area. This gesture has been well-received by the hospitality sector. We wait other updates from our local councils as to whether they will follow suit.

There are a number of documents required for an application these include;

  1. Site location and proposed café plan.
  2. Details of the furniture including the number, materials and types of chairs, tables, umbrellas.
  3. Liquor licence information (where applicable).
  4. Public liability insurance cover with minimum indemnity of £5m.

Businesses making the application are also required to fix a public notice to the premises on the day the application is made to the council. The notice must be positioned so as to be visible to the public for 28 days. Interested parties can make representations to the council in respect of an application.

Belfast City Council have stated they will aim to provide a determination within five weeks from date of
receipt of a fully completed application.  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 considerations.


The detailed guidance by the Department of the Economy and key industry stakeholder bodies in Northern Ireland have been broadly welcomed by the hospitality sector as they chart a road to recovery in 2020 beyond Covid -19. It is hoped this guidance will give businesses in the hospitality sector the confidence to reopen their doors while ensuring the health of customers and staff.

The steps taken by Belfast city Council around Pavement Café licences will hopefully ensure that as we enter the key summer month’s businesses can remain as financially viable as possible while the 2m rule remains and take advantage of the warmer weather by moving to a more continental model of outdoor service.

TLT has extensive experience in licensing matters in Northern Ireland and in the jurisdictions of England & Wales and Scotland. 

If you would like to discuss your requirements, please get in touch with Kevin Murphy or Eoin Devlin at our Belfast office.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions


Date published

25 June 2020

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