Hereford cafe’s fears after pavement seating scheme ends

A POPULAR Hereford cafe will have to cut its staffing after it was told it can no longer have outdoor seating.

The co-owners of JJ and Little Dots in Hereford’s Bridge Street took the decision to make use of the coronavirus pavement licence scheme this year after the Old Bridge was closed to traffic during the pandemic.

And the pair say the scheme has been a great success, with many customers on warmer days choosing to sit outside the cafe and enjoy the sun even after social distancing restrictions were removed.

But now they have been told they will not be able to renew their pavement licence, with the Old Bridge set to reopen to traffic, which co-owner Karen Barnett says will mean having to let staff go.

“We paid for 10 tables and chairs during the pandemic, and we will also have to let go of staff,” she said.

“The whole point of the bridge closing was to try and get people cycling. They took away car parking and then said we could have seats outside if we paid for it, so we paid and bought seating and at no point did they say this would be a one-time deal.

“We paid £100 for the licence then had to pay hundreds of pounds for the seating and employed another four people to manage the extra capacity.

“We have also got ourselves another terminal, which we pay monthly for, and a new iPad for ordering.

“The bridge is now opening and we are going to have to get rid of staff as I am not going to be able to pay them if we lost the outdoor seating.”

The cafe is unable to use outdoor space behind their building, as this is occupied by neighbouring cafe, The Den.

Ms Barnett said she felt let down by the council after pitching in to help with the community response during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We did a lot for the council during the pandemic, and we fed 100 elderly people for 10 weeks for the council.

“They were contacting me and asking me to pick people up, check on them and get food to them. We also did 3,000 Easter eggs for NHS staff,” she said.

“I think the upset over the Old Bridge is over and that it has become safer to ride our bikes. It makes life easier for buses and taxis too.

“We only have seven metres of pavement so it is only two car spaces they would be losing and we would be quite happy to pay out for a fence to keep people safe.”

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: “During the pandemic, many hospitality outlets were able to apply for temporary pavement licences which we have been happy to support to enable local businesses to trade safely and as best as possible. These temporary licences are due to expire at the end of September.

“The temporary pavement licence in this particular location made use of space created by the Emergency Active Travel Measures (EATMs), introduced to allow safer social distancing on the footway.

“With the restrictions being eased in July we are in the process of removing EATMs, and to support businesses, agreed to delay removing the measures where temporary pavement licences have been granted until after the end of September when they expire.”

“It has been clear throughout the process that such temporary pavement licences are not a long-term option. Businesses are still able to apply for new pavement licences, which will be considered on their relative merits.”

Hereford Times