A number of business owners in the town centre are up in arms after being told they need a licence to have tables and chairs outside due to some complaints.
More than a dozen cafe owners have been told they need to pay despite years of having the furniture on the pavement – with many refusing to cough up.
A complaint about the tables obstructing the pavements to the council led to an inspection which revealed the lack of licences.
Linda Brown, who runs Wooster’s Coffee Shop on Western Road with her daughter Sophie, is concerned she will not be able to afford the £240 fee.
“We’re a small cafe and we’re all family run businesses and we’re sort of getting up in arms about it,” she said.
“If you take this away from Western Road it will look like it’s dead – we are going to look like a ghost town.”
The chief concern seems to be the inconsistency of it all. Alfredo and Sue’s Cafe owner Suzanne Silva cannot understand how some people have been told to get a licence but some have not.
“I’m very upset mainly because we’ve always had tables and chairs outside, even the previous owners and the owners before that, and we’ve never had any issues with people walking past,” she said.
The cafe owner said she was very accommodating to the council officer but was given a letter ordering them to get a licence, whereas others have ignored the officer and got no letter.
This has made her question the validity of the licence and made her feel targeted, a feeling shared with Ms Brown and others, who cannot figure out how having a licence suddenly makes the tables and chairs safe.
“They seem to be penalising us that have tables and chairs and people who put things outside their shops. It’s just the principle of it,” Ms Brown said.
Ms Silva believes the furniture is part of the town.
“The main reason we came to Bexhill was for the community and we feel part of it with our cafe and our tables and chairs are part of that,” she said.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Placing objects such as tables and chairs on the pavement on highways land is prohibited by law, but may be allowed subject to certain conditions, on possession of a valid licence, and this has always been the case.
“Following complaints from members of the public who said the pavement was obstructed and they couldn’t get past, we recently carried out an inspection which revealed a number of businesses in Bexhill had tables and chairs on the pavement without a licence.
“The licensing system is aimed at ensuring we can control how and where tables and chairs are placed on the pavement, and protect the safety of pedestrians. Having a licence also protects businesses as it ensures they have proper public liability cover in the event of any accidents.
“A number of businesses in Bexhill already do have a licence so it’s only fair that the rules should be applied equally to all businesses.”
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