Published Thursday, 10 May 2012
Nelson McCausland, pictured outside Morellis on the North Coast. (© NI Executive)
Under the new licensing scheme, café, restaurant and bar owners will be able to seek permission to place tables and chairs on the footway for use by their customers.
"Well designed, sensibly located pavement cafés can add value to the street scene, boost visitor numbers and contribute to the economic and general well-being of local communities," Mr McCausland said.
"However, arrangements must be put in place to ensure the controlled expansion of street cafés which is why I am introducing a statutory licensing scheme.''
Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK and Ireland where no legislation exists which would authorise occupiers of premises to operate a pavement café. At present, the Roads Service operates a toleration policy in relation to pavement cafés - but this is regarded as a temporary arrangement.
The statutory scheme will enable district councils to licence suitable premises, impose conditions, vary, suspend or revoke a licence and charge a reasonable fee. Councils will be given powers to enforce the new law and may remove café facilities in certain circumstances.
It is expected that draft legislation will be brought before the Assembly in the autumn.
Alliance Social Development spokesperson Judith Cochrane welcomed the proposals to regulate street café provision.
The MLA said: "It will not only regulate something that already happens, but I believe it will increase the amount of on street café provision in a controlled means.
"It could go a long way to help attract tourists to here and increase the revenue our food and drink sector makes.
"On-street cafés obviously needs regulation, so I welcome the Minister's proposals for Councils to be the regulatory body. We would lose the potential benefits if our streets became over run with tables and chairs from cafés and restaurants or if disagreements arose between neighbouring businesses."
© UTV News