'High' pavement cafe fees agreed

Yarmouth's seafront will become a vision of continental al-fresco dining, councillors said as they agreed the price for controversial pavement café charges at a confidential meeting.

Yarmouth's seafront will become a vision of continental al-fresco dining, councillors said last night as they agreed the price for controversial pavement café charges at a confidential meeting.

But seafront traders said the fees were too high and claimed that officials were set to ensure the town's newly-widened pavements remained empty this summer, with Great Yarmouth Borough Council making no money at all.

A consultation letter is to be sent to all traders at the end of the week, setting out costs revealed in Saturday's EDP.

Licensed cafés will be charged £65 per sq m and non-licensed premises £35 per sq m, with a 20pc discount in the first year to offset the cost of chairs and tables.

The charges are still way above what any businessmen polled by the EDP said they would be happy to pay, despite being cut from £100 per sq m - a figure that caused an outcry as traders realised they would be paying double the fee of London's Covent Garden and up to 20 times the flat £295 charge in Blackpool.

The council also plans to ban bars that do not sell food from having a pavement café, insisting that a menu is sent in with any licence application and that food is available at all times.

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“I like the idea but the cost is astronomical. I won't be having tables and chairs outside,” said Peter Couma, who runs the Beach House Café on Marine Parade.

He questioned the financial sense of the charge when the season for sitting outside could last only seven weeks.

Tony Mavroudis, who has run the Gramby Café on the seafront for 35 years, said: “The council should be more lenient. They should see if people can make money first before they start charging them.

“I'm sure the officials know what is best for them, but they should be looking at what is best for the people.”

Shadow leader of the council Trevor Wainwright said that the charges would make sense, as the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces that comes into force on 1 July would mean that cafés with outside sitting areas would do a roaring trade.

He said the main thing was to agree on a figure so the 14-day consultation period could begin.

Burt Collins, the council cabinet member for tourism, said everybody at the closed meeting agreed unanimously to the fees. He said: “We all think it is reasonable what we are charging but we will know what people think when we get feedback.”

He said traders should be able to have pavement cafés in place by the Whitsun weekend.

But with planning permission set to take 28 days to grant pavement café licences, on top of the 14-day consultation, others warned that would be impossible.