Skip to content

Council advises caution to District's hospitality businesses on using outside seating areas

21 Dec 2020

As hospitality businesses look for ways to increase customer seating for their guests as a result of the current pandemic, many are deciding to set-up marquees or gazebos in outside areas in order to meet social distancing and household-mixing guidelines.

However, the Council is stressing the importance of making sure that such temporary outside structures don’t themselves fall foul of the Covid secure rules or other legislation.

One of the most major risks is the outdoor structure being too enclosed to be considered an actual outside space, which is a requirement to allow the mixing of up to six individuals from different households.

Ventilation is key to controlling the spread of the virus and this is why the rules are relaxed in outside areas.  In order to be classed as ‘outside,’ any structure with a roof must have openings in its sides greater than half of its total area; it is the same calculation that prevents ‘substantially enclosed’ structures from being used a smoking shelters.

For example, taking any two sides off of a square gazebo, or a long and a short side from a rectangle one, would be satisfactory, but these sides must not be put back while customers are present or it will contravene the relaxed outside gathering guidelines.  Unfortunately, this principle must be followed irrespective of how cold or windy it gets.

It is also vital that businesses do not install potentially dangerous patio heaters into gazebos and marquees without taking steps to ensure that they can be operated safely.

Great care is needed when introducing any heat source to a potentially flammable structure, but this is especially true if it is LPG powered, as this can introduce its own specific risks.  Heaters must only be used when following the manufacturers’ instructions and in line with the businesses own explicit risk assessment.  It is therefore strongly advised that guidance is sought before the installation of any heater to ensure that its use is safe and appropriate.

Similar consideration should also be given to other electrical appliances or fittings sited outside, such as mains-powered lighting, to ensure that they are properly installed.

It is also being highlighted that as businesses make more use of their outside spaces, they should remain considerate of their neighbours who are potentially spending more time at home.

The Council is maintaining that amplified or live music should be avoided in outside or in temporary structures, or at least kept to a low volume and turned off early, as noise breakout will clearly be greater from a gazebo than from inside a pub or restaurant.

The run up to Christmas is undoubtedly going to be very busy for the retail and hospitality sector.

Whilst we are really pleased that most of the District’s hospitality businesses have responded so well to the numerous adaptations they have had to make in order to continue trading safely, it is also important that they take on board these key considerations for the safety of their customers, staff and neighbours .

We want to ensure that the ongoing Christmas experience is as safe as possible for people in our District’s towns and villages.

These measures will further help to limit the risk of transmission to both customers and staff.

Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Community Matters and Wellbeing Cllr Tricia Youtan

Further information on these environmental health matters can be obtained through emailing or by telephoning 01403 215 100.

For media queries please email