Chapel-en-le-Frith pub owner berates council over failed outdoor seating bid

A Chapel-en-le-Frith pub owner has criticised the council after she was turned down for a pavement licence - allowing her to serve customers outside during the pandemic.

By Ben McVay
Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:45 pm

Stella Walters - who has run the Old Cell Ale Bar for four years - was told this month her application for seating areas at the front and side of her pub had been rejected.

High Peak Borough Council say seating at the front of the premises would break rules calling for a two-metre boundary between customers and passers-by - forcing pedestrians onto the road.

They also refused to allow seating on a cobbled area at the side of the Old Cell Ale Bar - as this is not classed as a highway and so is not a ‘valid’ application.

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Stella Walters, middle, with Robert Largan MP and High Peak councillor Kath Sizeland

A letter from the council warned Stella’s premises licence could be ‘affected’ if ‘relevant agencies or persons’ perceived a breach of social distancing requirements on the cobbled area.

Ironically, Stella has had seating on the pavement and cobbled area outside her bar for the last two years. But she applied for a pavement licence after the Government streamlined the process to help small business during the pandemic.

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She said: “If you walk around and look at other pubs there are lots of them that are not two metres from the footpaths.

Stella Walters - who has run the Old Cell Ale Bar for four years - was told this month her application for seating areas at the front and side of her pub had been rejected

“I imagine most of them are operating without a licence - which is probably what I should have carried on doing but you try and do everything the right way.”

Stella, 63, told how because of Covid-19 safety measures she had reduced her seating from 28 to 18.

She said: “Customers aren’t allowed to stand up - which makes it hard if you can’t have seats outdoors either.

“Last weekend I had to turn away 26 people and I don’t know how many may have looked through the window and decided not to come in.

“I’ll manage to keep going somehow but I’m only just getting by thanks to loyal customers.

“It just feels as though the council’s not being very fair - this new system was brought in by the Government to help small businesses but they just say ‘no’.”

Backing Stella’s bid for a pavement licence, High Peak MP Robert Largan spoke of his ‘frustration’ at the council decision.

He said: “I want to see popular local watering holes like Stella’s The Old Cell Ale Bar able to re-open - protecting jobs, traditional produce, community social space and the supply chain.”

Councillor Damien Greenhalgh, deputy leader of High Peak Borough Council, said since the introduction of new Government measures they had processed 10 successful applications for pavement licences.

He added: “Each of these applications is considered and determined in-line with the clear guidance and provisions of the Government legislation - which we have a duty to uphold.

"If Mr Largan wants to speak to the Government about changes to this legislation then we would perhaps look to support that.

“While we of course understand that Ms Walters is disappointed by the decision I can assure her it has been reached in full accordance with the legislation.”

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