Published: 17:15, 10 June 2020
| Updated: 09:09, 11 June 2020
A business owner is feeling left in the dark as premises wanting to apply for an outdoor seating licence are made to wait six weeks for the go-ahead.
Kent County Council is asking all businesses to submit an application and pay a £190 annual fee for placing tables, chairs and temporary street furniture outside their premises.
But KCC Highways, Transportation and Waste have said applications must be sent at least six weeks in advance of using the outdoors spaces.
With advice from UK government changing quickly by the day, it could be weeks after pubs are allowed to open that they get the green light to put outdoor seating in place.
Steve Sitton, manager of The Made Inn in Ashford, said the council should provide a much quicker process if they want independent cafés and pubs to survive.
He said: "In a time where the hospitality sector is crawling on its knees, more fees and red tape is not what it needs."
Under the government's guidelines, Mr Sitton's craft beer pub would only be able to fit around 20 people inside, so use of outside seating is essential for the business to make a profit.
The landlord said: "We've done a rough headcount with 2m social distancing, and we estimated we could only have 20 people in the building, one third of our normal capacity.
"It could be disastrous because we'll have to turn people away from the door."
Mr Sitton would also have to apply for a road closure if he wants to include outdoor seating, but said the information put out by the council is not detailed enough.
He said: "The current guidelines and advice for such permissions are not clear and should be made so and publicised so that the smallest and most at-risk business can continue to serve their communities to save them from collapse."
Under the new licence rules which take into account government social distancing guidelines, owners hoping to use furniture outdoors must keep a clear footway of 2 metres available, which could be increased to 2.5 metres in busy locations.
"It could be disastrous because we'll have to turn people away from the door..."
If businesses are not able to prove to KCC they can achieve the distance, they will not grant the licence to them.
Business owners are being asked to lay out detailed plans in their licence, such as the dimensions of any furniture and the footpath width that would remain after furniture is added.
The council have also warned licences could be revoked if holders to not keep to the conditions set out.
Alongside the six-week wait for a decision, Mr Sitton said the £190 fee should be scrapped whilst businesses get back on their feet.
He said: "The fee is not helpful, we would like to see it abolished for at least six months, bearing mind businesses don't have any money coming in at the minute."
Cllr Dara Farrell (Lab) of Victoria Ward, Ashford, said: "It would be great if KCC made a step to suspend a new licence and provide a holiday period for businesses."
KCC have been approached for comment.