Outdoor Seating Areas & Pavement Cafes

With the ongoing relaxation of Coronavirus restrictions, pubs and cafes can now open outdoor seating areas. Business owners who wish to take advantage of the new rules will want to ensure that they are operating safely and legally. Council officers have provided advice and links to the appropriate guidance which will assist businesses with reopening.


In order for customers to consume alcohol in an outdoor area it must be licenced. If your outdoor area is not licensed you may apply for an Occasional Licence and advice is available on Occasional Licence webpage. You must not allow the consumption of alcohol in areas under your control without the appropriate licence.

In order to accept applications for processing and determination you will be required to submit an alcohol management plan to accompany your application in line with subsection 6.3 and Appendix 2 of the Board's policy, this policy can be viewed at:  

You must also include in your plan your proposed arrangements for dealing with inclement weather. You are urged, as a courtesy, to make your neighbours aware of your application and discuss it with them to limit any potential for complaints with regard to your proposed activities under the licence.

Temporary Structures

Planning will not enforce against any temporary use of outdoor areas for seating beyond the permitted 28 days, or the erection of canopies and structures within the grounds of premises as long as the uses, and users, do not cause any significant disturbance to the public  or neighbouring residents. These arrangements will be in place for uses/structures up to and including 30 September 2020. If any operator intends to have a use or structure in place beyond that date they should submit a planning application for the development through the ePlanning portal at  ePlanning.scot or contact Planning Services with details of when the use will cease using planningenforcement@westlothian.gov.uk

Canopies, gazebos, marquees and other structures must be no more than 50% enclosed around the sides to qualify as being outdoors.

Physical Distancing and Health & Safety

General guidance on operating safely during the Pandemic is available though Operating your business safely during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Specific guidance for the hospitality trade is available at:

Pavement Cafes 

You will require a permit from the Council if your proposed operations under the licence involves the placement of tables and chairs on the public road/footway outside your business. For further details including contact details please see Tables and Chairs permit application and conditions.

You must ensure that your outdoor seating area does not operate in a way which prevents other pavement users from exercising physical distancing.