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Cafe owner disagrees with timing of outdoor seating charges

NEXT month new licences will be needed for restaurants and cafes across the Vale of Glamorgan to have tables and chairs on public pavements.

Licenses will cost between £150 to more than £750 a year depending on the number of tables and chairs.

The new charges are meant to limit the amount of space taken up on the pavement and make it easier for disabled people.

During the height of the pandemic, fees for these licences were paused to help businesses struggling with lockdown restrictions. However, Vale of Glamorgan council have since rejected calls to delay the fees further.

Matt Holland, of Willmore’s 1938, said he doesn’t agree with the council’s timing in introducing the fees just little over eight weeks since hospitality businesses across Wales were able to re-open outdoors.

Penarth Times: Matthew Holland and Charlotte Court, owners of Willmore's 1938 Matthew Holland and Charlotte Court, owners of Willmore’s 1938

“We all knew about the charges,” he said.

“They did notify us last year about them. But, timing isn’t the best at the moment with the situation in regards to hospitality having such a battering.

“The timing of it is the problem. We were told about the charges and accepted them.

“We’ve had an amazing parklet built by the council and we’ve got to pay for that as the rateable value or number of tables that are on there and we do appreciate them giving us that parklet as well.

Penarth Times: The parklet outside Willmore's 1938 on Stanwell Road The parklet outside Willmore’s 1938 on Stanwell Road

“Really, for us, it is a timing issue.

“Maybe if it was done perhaps after the summer when we’d had chance to gain back some of the money that we’d lost, then it would be a little bit different.”

Mr Holland also said how he’s noticed most of his customers are currently choosing to still sit outside for dining, rather than indoors.

“I think that’s just the way the public are at the moment. It’s safer and what the government are telling us.

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“And these outside areas the council are giving us means (coronavirus) is spreading less because we’re sitting outside.”

Despite the challenges, however, Mr Holland said this May has been one of their best since opening five years ago and thanked residents and visitors for their support.

Nathan Thomas, highways maintenance manager at the council, said the new fees would be “fairer for small businesses”. He explained the changes to a recent meeting of the council’s environment and regeneration scrutiny committee.

Before the pandemic, the council charged businesses a fixed fee of £497.50 for three years, regardless of how many chairs or tables they had outside. But little enforcement appeared to have taken place, with many cafes having outdoor seating without the required licence.

From July, annual licences for outdoor seating on public pavements will cost as follows:

  • One to two tables with up to eight chairs: £150
  • Three to four tables with up to 16 chairs: £300
  • Five to 10 tables with up to 40 chairs: £500
  • 11 tables or more with over 40 chairs: £750, plus £35 extra for each chair after 40

This means every cafe with at least three tables outdoors will have to pay more than before the pandemic— if they paid for a licence at all.

South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies has called on the Labour run Vale of Glamorgan Council to think again on the fee changes for businesses in the area.    

Mr Davies said, “Many local businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, have been brought to the brink by the pandemic. 

“Outdoor dining has offered many of those businesses essential respite, but the last thing they need is to be treated as a cash cow. 

“The council must call an amnesty on these charges until the pandemic is behind us. It’s disappointing Labour councillors voted down sensible proposals from the Conservative Group and the Council must reverse this decision.”

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