What licences you may need

We're in the process of drafting a policy in relation to tables and chairs and accompanying guidance to be used for outdoor hospitality covering tables and chairs, structures, decking and licences.

The guidance will include real examples of good practice from around the city.

The draft tables and chairs policy will be developed further over the coming months, before going to public consultation and the sector for feedback.

Outdoor hospitality has been a welcome addition across Bristol in response to the pandemic. It has supported local businesses and added colour, vibrancy and atmosphere to the streets.

As we move on from the pandemic and recovery of the hospitality sector, the council is looking to ensure applications for outdoor hospitality and structures add value to the surroundings, and any structures in the road are safe and accessible.

The area should be well designed, properly maintained and managed, and must take into account the needs of others using the area including disabled people and emergency vehicles.

To meet this requirement, the council have revised the application process to encourage proposals that underpin the council's commitment to achieving a high-quality environment for citizens and visitors alike.

All businesses including cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants must ask the council for permission to have tables, chairs and other pavement furniture or structures on the pavement or road.

Businesses with existing structures will be given time to retrospectively apply for the necessary licences or planning permission.

The licences and permissions you need will depend on what furniture or structure you want to use and where it is going to be used.

You may need up to 4 different permissions including:

  • Pavement Licence
  • Planning permission
  • Hospitality Structure Licence
  • Electrical Licence

Premises that have or are looking to expand outdoors with customers consuming alcohol on the highway will also need a premises licence to sell alcohol.

To help streamline the application process and to avoid any unnecessary costs, we encourage you to talk to us before you start work on any structure to make sure that it fits with the licence conditions and planning to make sure it is suitable and safe for use on the highway.

Email: pavement.licences@bristol.gov.uk

Pavement licences

A Pavement Licence allows the licence-holder to place removable furniture on the highway, adjacent to the premises in relation to which the application was made.

Applying for a Pavement Licence is the fastest, easiest and most affordable way to trade outdoors.

Pavement licences can only be issued on pavements, pedestrianised areas or roads closed off to vehicles. 

The authority has 7 days to make a determination of the application starting the day after the public consultation period has ended. The public consultation period also lasts 7 days.

Having a licence ensures your insurance policy is valid while trading on the pavement, highway or in a pedestrianised area.

Businesses without a valid licence must not place any furniture on the highway and will be asked to remove any furniture from the pavement or road.

The pavement licence covers:

  • removable independent tables and chairs
  • removable independent parasols up to 2.5 metres diameter
  • independent gas bottles outdoor heaters, secured but immediately removable
  • planters
  • barriers

It's essential when submitting an application, accessibility is maintained for emergency services and disabled persons.

Licences will be issued in accordance with government guidance on Pavement Licences and the Business and Planning 2020 Act (BPA).

Licences are valid for one year.

Enclosed structures

Any structure with sides or a roof, including canopies and marquees is likely to require planning permission.

Planning permission must be requested for any structure that will be up longer than 28 days.

Allow the statutory timeframe of 8 weeks to make your planning application.

Planning permission must be obtained before a structures licence is applied for.

Businesses with an existing structure must apply for planning permission retrospectively. The business must be able to provide evidence that planning permission has been requested.

The council must take into consideration the legal status of the highway and the need for access by the emergency services and utility companies.

Unfortunately, when considering each planning application this might make structures unsuitable on many highways. 

It is not legally possible to place structures on the carriageway such as in parking bays or other unrestricted roads. Structures will only be considered on footway, pedestrianised areas or roads covered by a Traffic Regulation Order that would permit their placement.

Once planning permission has been granted, applications can be made for a Pavement Licence and a Hospitality Structures Licence. Both licences are required.

You can get advice before making a planning application.

Find out how to make a planning application.


Hospitality Structures Licence

Hospitality Structures Licence are required for:

  • levelling decks or decking. This will only be considered where the camber or gradient of the highway do not allow tables and chairs to sit reasonably level. Levelling decks must not be permanent so they can be removed at short notice in cases of emergency.
  • parasols greater than 2.5m diameter. This will require a Hospitality Structures Licence as well as a Pavement Licence.

Applicants must complete the Hospitality Structure Licence form and email highways.traffic@bristol.gov.uk providing the following information:

  • your business name and location
  • the size of the canopy
  • what materials you want to use
  • photo or image of the canopy
  • how you'll fix the canopy to the highway or building
  • if there are any utility services in proximity, for example a drain cover
  • evidence of having public liability insurance to the value of 5 million that covers your operation on the highway
Electrical requirements

If an electricity supply is required a Streetscape Electrical Licence can be requested.

There are two options available depending on the setting required:

  • Option A: for setting requiring up to 6kVA
  • Option B: for settings requiring over 6kVA

Refer to the pdf Bristol City Council Street Space Electrical Licence Specification Guide (615 KB) .

Alcohol premises licence

A Pavement Licence will only grant you permission to place furniture on the highway.

Premises that have or are looking to expand outdoors, with customers consuming alcohol on the highway will need both a premises licence to sell alcohol and a Pavement Licence.

The government has announced that the temporary measures allowing off-sales of alcohol will be extended for another year, bringing these in line with the Pavement Licence extension.

Temporary measures allowing off-sales of alcohol will now end on 30 September 2023.

The temporary measure, introduced to the Business and Planning Act 2020 and Licensing Act 2003, allows all premises previously restricted to the sales of alcohol for consumption on the premises (on-sale) to supply alcohol for consumption off the premises (off-sales).

Find Premises licences for alcohol and entertainment.

Fees and how to apply

Apply for a Pavement Licence

Apply for a Pavement Licence, cost £100.

Apply for an enclosed structure licence

Find out how to make a planning application, for any structure that has sides or a roof, including canopies and marquees.

Apply for a Hospitality Structure Licence

Apply for a Hospitality Structure Licence, cost £433.

Apply for a Streetscape Electrical Licence