Fears for Doncaster town centre business survival as bars told to close pavement tables by 11pm next month

Pubs fear they will struggle to survive after it was announced they must take seats and tables off pavements at 11pm when they re-open in April.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 6:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 8:35 am

Town centre bars that rely on tables on pavement had feared they would be forced to take away street furniture at 10pm, but after a meeting today, that was moved back until 11pm from the planned re-opening date of April 12, until May 17.

But businesses and town centre councillors fear it will still devastate businesses whose trade does not start to peak until 10pm.

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Chris Coughlan, O'Donegan's owner and Ian Bailey, Mason Arms owner, pictured with staff members. Picture: NDFP-30-03-21-O'Donegan's 1-NMSY

Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Police confirmed the 11pm closing time for pavement licences in a joint statement from council director of economy and environment, Dan Swaine, and Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest of South Yorkshire Police.

They said: “We have been working closely on this issue and we are keen to help businesses reopen. We are also keen to ensure we have a safe and secure environment for customers and the public.

"We’ve listened to feedback from licensees who have a pavement licence and have made the joint decision to enable these pubs and bars to open their alfresco areas next to the highway until 11pm from April 12, 2021 to May 17, 2021.

"We will continue to work with these premises to help them manage this and provide further guidance to them.

O'Donegan's boss fears the Hall Gate venue could have to close because of 11pm curfews for pavement licences

“We want Doncaster’s hospitality industry to begin to reopen in a safe way and for people to enjoy our evening economy. We are still in a pandemic so safety is our main concern and we will continue to monitor and review the situation.”

But bar owner Chris Coughlan, who owns O’Donegans on Hall Gate, said having to close the pavement at 11pm would close his business down.

He invested £300,000 in his bar two years ago, and spent £25,000 of his bounce-back grant getting the venue into a position to be able to open next month, with heaters and awnings in front of the building.

He said the only space he will be able to serve customers will be the pavement in front of his venue.

The redevelopment of Hall Gate in the Town Centre, gets underway. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-10-18-HallGate-1

He said: “Opening until 11pm is no good – they’re going to close my business down. We previously had a 3am finish weekends and 11pm during the week when no one’s in town.

“I’ve spent a fortune trying to be in a position to open.”

He said no one at the council had told him at any stage there was likely to be a new restriction on opening times for the pavements, and wants to know why.

He is keen to re-open so his staff can work again.

Coun Tosh McDonald would like to see a legal challenge to the restrictions on pavement licences in Doncaster

Hallgate was redeveloped to allow pavement tables in 2018.

All three ward councillors for Doncaster Central condemned the 11pm curfew for pavement licences.

Coun Nikki McDonald said the council policy on the licences had been for them to allow for opening until 3am, and nothing had been done to change that since it was set in 2016.

Coun Tosh McDonald said that he would like to see a legal challenge against the ‘curfew’ on those grounds.

And Coun Dave Shaw warned it would mean greater health risk in May if people were moved indoors from outside seats.

Beer gardens away from the road will be allowed to stay open.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.