Owner of Smile Cafe in Southsea's Marmion Road says he needs more support from Portsmouth City Council after outdoor licence expires

THE owner of a Southsea cafe has called on Portsmouth City Council to ‘come to its senses’ and reissue a licence for outside seating it has had for more than a decade.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 5:29 pm
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 5:30 pm
Smile cafe owner Grahame Heke Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-24)

Smile in Marmion Road saw its longstanding pavement licence with the council expire last year during a 450-day closure brought about by the pandemic and will now have to submit a new application.

But the cafe's owner, Graham Heke, has hit out at the council, saying it should be providing more support for hospitality businesses after the last year instead of forcing him through the full process.

On Thursday, the cafe opened for the first time since March 2020 but for the first time in 14 years it had no outside seating for customers.

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Smile Cafe in Marmion Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-25)

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Mr Heke was originally told his pavement licence had expired while preparing to reopen in November last year. He had been in contact with the council to have it reissued before the second lockdown forced these plans to be abandoned.

‘When the government set this July 19 date I started planning for our reopening, thinking I'd leave an extra 10 days to make sure we had everything in place," he said.

‘I went to the council and asked for our licence back and was told we couldn't and will need to apply again.

‘It's so frustrating, we're a small business with fantastic loyal customers but when they see us without the tables and chairs outside, as they have been for 14 years, they'll think we're closed.’

He said there had never been any issues with the licence nor any complaints about the impact of the seating.

‘Councils across the country are recognising that after the year we've had that the hospitality industry should be given more support but in Portsmouth I’m facing the opposite - all I’m asking for is two tables and four chairs for my customers,’ Mr Heke added.

A council spokesman said that as the application had expired, Mr Heke would have to go through the full application process.

‘The business had renewed the licence for many years, but last year it was not renewed, although we sent reminders," they said. "Because it was not renewed, a new application was needed. We received this [on Thursday] and are advising the applicant on the process.

‘We will need to consult teams in the council – for example, in transport and planning – as well as other organisations such as police and the fire service. We will also need to consider the law regarding pavement space for people using wheelchairs or pushing buggies etc.’

The spokesman said that if any objections were raised to the licence then a decision would have to be made by councillors.