AN INDEPENDENT café in Christchurch is facing a “frustrating” battle with the council over its outdoor seating.

Cuckoos Coffee Bar in Pound Lane has been told by BCP Council to reduce the number of tables and chairs it has outside the front.

Owner Pauline Hawkes said the order would see her overall seating provision slashed by 25 per cent, which could put the business “at risk of insolvency”.

Cuckoos has had eight tables with 16 chairs since it re-opened after the Covid lockdown in 2020, having extended numbers to adapt to social distancing rules.

At this time, the café was visited by the council’s Highways Enforcement Team and the outdoor seating was deemed "acceptable", according to Pauline. 

She explained that when Cuckoos’ pavement licence was renewed in November 2020, she received a diagram from the council confirming the seating allowance.

Pauline said the outdoor seating she had in place stretched out 3.6 metres from the front of the café, and the diagram "looked like" up to six metres of seating was permitted. 

Bournemouth Echo: The diagram sent to PaulineThe diagram sent to Pauline (Image: Pauline Hawkes)

Pauline therefore continued to make use of her eight tables, but at the end of last summer, was visited by the Highways Enforcement Team after a complaint was made. 

She said: "They told me I could only go two and a half metres out from the front. The diagram had been labelled the long way really."

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “The map which sets out the permitted area for the cafe pavement licence has always stipulated an area 6 metres wide by 2.5 metres deep.

“An area of 6 metres depth would obstruct pedestrians on the footpath which we are bound by the Equalities Act to maintain.”

Pauline said that a 2.5 metre area would only allow for only four tables. 

She told the Daily Echo: “When summer comes this will adversely affect the income for the business.

“My concern is that we’re looking at a 25 per cent reduction in income because I haven’t got 25 per cent of the tables I’d usually have.

“I am worried about financially being able to continue to run the business which provides employment.

“I employ 11 people plus more students in the summer, that’s a lot of people that could potentially lose employment.”

Bournemouth Echo: Cuckoos currently has eight chairs which go out approx. 3.6mCuckoos currently has eight chairs which go out approx. 3.6m (Image: NQ)

Pauline has been pleading with the council to keep the eight chairs, but said there had been "very little engagement".

She told the Daily Echo: “Twice they came out, I wasn’t here, and the tables weren’t even out, so how they could make a judgement I don’t know.

“In the years that the tables and chairs have been out in front of the café, there has been no incidents of any incidents or injuries, so I do not understand why BCP Council has said that I can only go out two and a half metres in front of the café."

Pauline also noted other issues with the pavement licence.

She said: "The rules around the pavement licence is that there should be six feet or two metres between the edge of the chairs and the highway. It's two metres, we measured it.

"It's frustrating because you walk up the high street and there are plenty of tables and chairs that don’t have that distance between the highway."

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “Our teams endeavour to support all our local businesses and to ensure that each are treated fairly in line with the other.

“Officers are in regular contact with the owner of Cuckoo’s Café and continue to work with her to try and find a solution - including meeting her at the café premises later this week. To date, any alternatives that they have offered have been declined."