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New pavement café licensing guidelines support city centre accessibility

Pavement café tables and chairs

Published Monday, 16 January 2023

New guidance has been published to help hospitality businesses ensure their pavement cafés are properly licensed and accessible.

Under the new rules, fast-track licenses can be applied for if the businesses are able to show they can allow a minimum 1.5 metres passing space on the pavement - unless located on a street with level access and no kerb, for example, Coney Street. Businesses which don’t qualify for this, can use the pre-pandemic route to apply for a pavement café area through a planning application, where changes to the street layout may be considered where possible.

All pavement café licences granted under the government’s legislation during the pandemic expired at the end of December 2022. The Council has contacted all businesses which have previously applied for, or which have held a pavement café licence, directing them to the new pavement café licence guidelines with a reminder to apply for a new licence valid to the end of September 2023.

The pavement café licence guidelines, which ensure a minimum 1.5 metres safe passing space is kept clear, were drawn up with the support of independent access consultants and in consultation with disabled residents. They were then agreed by full Council in December 2022 to give clarity on a long-term local approach to pavement cafés following the government’s deregulated approach to licensing during the pandemic.

The new rules will also be supported by more information and advice for businesses, as well as more stringent enforcement where breaches are found.

Residents who are concerned about pavement café furniture which might be in breach of the new rules are encouraged to report this to the Council by emailing: café

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, Executive Member for Transport, said:

The new guidelines for acquiring a pavement café license will help us support businesses to take advantage of outdoor dining whilst ensuring that our narrow city streets are kept accessible.

“The new rules under the fast track approach include a requirement to maintain a minimum 1.5 metre width of footway for people to get past. In footstreets where there is level access between footways and carriageway - as it is in Coney Street - licences may be issued for pavement cafés to cover the full width of the footway.”

Cllr Ashley Mason, Executive Member for Economic Development and Strategy, said:

Our city centre remains one of the most visited and popular in the UK, having recently been awarded a Purple Flag in recognition of York’s safe and thriving night-time economy. Outdoor café culture is something we are keen to support and see thrive in the city, but it’s crucial that this is done in a safe and accessible manner. The new rules and support will help us do just that.

“A new panel is also being set up, so York groups and communities can share their experience of the new guidance, which, in turn, will inform any future licence reviews, possible access improvements and enforcement action, if and where required.”

See more information on pavement café licences, including information on how to apply and links to the pavement café licence guidelines, which show how to set up a pavement café area.