BRADFORD Council is taking a “flexible” approach to planning enforcement when it comes to pubs, restaurants and cafes and any new structures to allow them to trade outdoors under the recently relaxed Covid restrictions.

The local authority has said it it focusing on “advice and support” in the first instance, in order to support the district’s economic recovery.

In addition the Council is urging businesses, which were allowed to reopen on Monday as long as they trade outdoors, the chance to reclaim some of their extra set-up costs through a £1,500 grant.

One such pub that could be eligible is Salt Beer Factory in Saltaire. Boss Nadir Zairi explained to the Telegraph & Argus how they had been unable to install any permanent structure in their existing beer garden due to the building itself being listed.

But he added that they had extended into the car park with a marquee and a number of picnic tables, to provide customers with more shelter.

He said: “It’s a big pub - with a restaurant, mezzanine and brewery tap - our capacity is usually about 700 people, so we are only operating at a fraction of that.But we do have a fairly sizeable beer garden and the space to install a marquee in the car park too.

“It was great to see customers flock back to the pub on Monday. We’ve been lucky with the weather too - it’s been sunny and quite cold but dry.”

The easing of restrictions on April 12 meant that hospitality venues could reopen to serve people outdoors only. It is hoped that the next set of restrictions can be lifted mid-May allowing groups of up to six people, or two households, to eat and drink indoors.

But it will be mid-June at least before the remaining restrictions around indoor socialising are lifted.

Peter Down, of the Bradford Branch of CAMRA said the relaxation of Covid restrictions gave "some hope" to the hospitality trade and welcomed the advice and grant from the Council.

"Those with suitable outdoor areas are now able to trade to some degree. The re-opening of these businesses on Monday showed there was a significant demand from customers who, themselves, have had to endure many months of restrictions. It was great to see that those businesses able to re-open were busy but still had good COVID-19 control measures in place."

He added: “However, it is estimated only 40 per cent of pubs and bars are currently able to re-open under the Step 2 restrictions and, even then, their trade is likely to be significantly reduced due to the constraints of outdoor trading with many expected to be still trading at a loss.

"Fingers are crossed that those businesses not able to re-open until 17 May at the earliest are able to do so. Given the positive reports in the numbers of vaccinations and the significant reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases, the hospitality trade should be allowed to re-open as soon as possible to help with the general wellbeing of the public and provide a return to normality.”

A Council spokesman said: “The council’s primary priority is people’s safety. We have advised local businesses on the rules relating to opening under the new reduced restrictions and all the guidance is set out on our website.

“The council understands businesses are under a lot of pressure but it is important everyone follows the government’s Covid-19 guidance. The Secretary of State has encouraged local authorities to take a positive and flexible approach to planning enforcement action to support economic recovery so we are focusing on providing advice and support in the first instance.”

They added that to extend trading out onto the street, businesses need to secure a free Outdoor Seating Licence through the Council’s website.

The new grants are open from today to local businesses in the hospitality and visitor economy sectors to help cover additional costs with reopening this week.

Up to £1,500 is available towards outdoor furniture and equipment and a form is available on the Council’s website.

Bradford BID wrote to the Council last month urging it to give the ““maximum help possible” to the struggling hospitality sector.

Manager Jonny Noble said: “Any help that can be given to relieve the burden on businesses is welcome so the grant payments for furniture and equipment to offset the extra cost of exploiting outdoor trading opportunities will make an important contribution.

“The hospitality industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is an absolutely essential part of the city centre and its survival is crucial to the future of Bradford and all who live, work, take their leisure and do business here.

“All of these businesses need help to get back on their feet and they will need the extra revenues that serving food and drink outdoors can potentially provide even after they are allowed to welcome customers back indoors, hopefully from May 17.”