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Serving Food and Drink Outside

While wishing to support businesses, the Council also has a responsibility to ensure health, safety and wellbeing of all the community.

We have issued this guide for businesses who wish to open a new outdoor seating area, or use an existing area. It sets out what consents, licences and permits you will need to apply for, links to other detailed guidance or websites, information on how to be COVID-19 Secure, and tips for being a good neighbour.

We have also set out our approach to enforcement of these areas during this time as well as information on financial support. 

Can I set up a street café on the public highway, or the pavement?

If you wish to place an outside seating area on an adopted road, footpath or pavement, you would normally need to apply to Devon County Council for permission. However, this Council is now tasked with granting temporary COVID-19 Pavement Licences. Please use this application process below for pavement licences for use of the adopted highway.

Apply to place tables/chairs on the public highway

Can I set up a café or hospitality service on private land?

If the land is owned by someone else, you don't need the Council's permission to set out tables and chairs, but you may need the landowner's permission.

If you don't know who owns the land, you can carry out a land registry search.

Search the Land Registry

Can I sell or serve alcohol?

You will need a premises licence to sell or serve alcohol.

If you have an existing licence then you will need to check to see if it permits you to sell/supply alcohol in the new seating area.

If you need to make a temporary change to your licence to sell/supply alcohol in your new outside area, the Council is permitting most businesses to apply for a minor variation to your premises licence. This process takes between two and three weeks to complete and costs £89. Click here for further guidance on this process.

A permanent change to your licence would require a full variation which takes a minimum of 28 days to approve.

If you don't have a licence then you will need to apply for a new premises licence. New premises licence applications take a minimum of 28 days to approve.

If you are unsure if you need to make changes to your premises licence, or you would like further advice on selling alcohol, please email the Licensing Team:

Can I sell or serve food?

If you are an existing food business that is registered with the Council, you do not need to apply for anything but you should review your food safety management system and procedures.

Advice on this can be found on the Foods Standards Agency website, and also on Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership website.

If you are a new food business, you will need to register with the council. Find out how at Register a Food Business.

How can I make my business COVID secure?

The Government's COVID-19 Secure guidelines are the legal requirement to adhere to make your business COVID-19 safe, and can be found at the Gov.UK website

There is lots of great business advice and resources, including a template risk assessment, on the Heart of the South West website.

It's also a good idea to check Hospitality Industry and Trade Association websites for more practical measures and advice.

What else do I need to consider?

Disabled Access - Think about the layout of your tables and chairs, especially when placing them on the highway. Think about access to your business for less able people, or those with mobility problems. Seek advice from specialist bodies or groups if you are unsure what to do. For example, if your staff are wearing masks this may impact on your customers who are hard of hearing or who lip read. Think about how you address this, so your business is accessible to all.

Fire Safety - Are your tables and chairs blocking a fire escape route, either yours or your neighbours? You will need to revise your Fire Safety Risk Assessment as part of your plans.

Toilets - Where will your customers go to the toilet? Make sure toilets are part of your risk assessment and measures you take to ensure your business is 'Covid Secure'. Your neighbours and the Council will need to be reassured that the answer isn't ever going to be 'neighbours gardens, the sea, the park, the hedge etc.'

Litter - Put into place arrangement to pick up all the litter in the neighbouring area. This should be done when you close and not left until the next day. We advise you to do this even if it isn't your litter. Be a good neighbour. Also think about the bins you will need and where you will put them. Your plan must not be that your customers will use the Council waste bins in public spaces either.

Dog Mess - Think about how you will ensure that your customers' dogs don't leave mess behind. If they don't pick it up, you must do so.

Smoking - Most people don't smoke or enjoy the smell of other people's smoke especially when eating. Your neighbours will not appreciate your customers smoke either. Therefore make sure your plans consider what you will do about your customers who smoke.

Noise and Anti-Social Behaviour - Think about how you will control noise from both your business and your customers. You should also think about others who are attracted to the area because your business is open.

Members of the public will not differentiate between people that are your customers and those that aren't. So even though you may think it isn't your responsibility to control other people's behaviour, the fact that you are open and attracting people to an area may make it so.

If you have concerns or want advice about how to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour please contact Neighbourhood Police Team or the Council's Environmental Health Team

Being a Good Neighbour

The following advice will help you maintain good relationships with neighbouring residents and businesses. If you do nothing else we advise you to think about doing the following as part of your plans:

  • Speak to your neighbours about your plans before you apply for permission or open up.
  • Listen to their concerns no matter how small they maybe to you.
  • Tell them how you will address their concerns.
  • If you tell them you will do something then make sure you do it.
  • Keep them informed especially of any changes to what you have agreed.
  • Give them your telephone number to call if they have a problem.

Being a Bad Neighbour - the Council's Enforcement Position

Part of your success will be determined by your ability to be a good neighbour, both to nearby residents and other businesses. We believe that the whole community needs to work together during this time to support and look after one another. The Council has to balance supporting Businesses at the same time as offering support to our community when they ask for help or complain about a business.

The Council has legal duties which haven't gone away because of COVID. We have some discretion in certain areas, for example planning, but not in others like noise nuisance.

If we receive a complaint about your business we will investigate that complaint and as part of that process we will contact you and ask you what you can do to put things right in the first instance. We are aware that some complaints may be malicious, or vexatious, and always bear this in mind. But if we think the complaint is justified and we have the evidence to prove it, we may have to take formal action.

When deciding what action to take one of the factors we consider is your attitude and past compliance. So if we ask you to speak to us about a problem, then please speak to us. If we ask you to take action to put things right then please do those things we ask. If you can't do something we are asking you, then please tell us why you can't - we will listen to you and take these factors into consideration.

Our Promise to Businesses

  • We will do all we can to support you.
  • We will tell you if we receive a complaint about your business.
  • We will assess every application and complaint on a case by case basis.
  • We will listen to what you have to say.
  • We will be clear and explain to you what we need you to do.

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