AT a time when small local businesses are feeling the pinch and every penny spent by tourists is vital, a plan to charge cafe and restaurant owners for putting tables outside their premises was bound to cause a backlash.
And it’s a good job people kicked up a fuss – after consideration, the county council has now decided to axe the proposed scheme.
The one-size-fits-all approach of a flat fee – the so-called table tax – was a bad idea from the start. It simply didn’t differentiate between the independent trader, who might put out the odd table or two on a sunny weekend, and the national chain which could have 50 cluttering the pavement all year round.
Most people would accept that there has to be some kind of policy to prevent a free-for-all on our streets, but using it as a money-making tool will never be tolerated. There is enough red tape and tax as it is, without engineering more.
Successive governments have for some time encouraged us, as a nation, to embrace a more continental-style cafe culture. And it can work well for places like Alnwick and its surrounding towns and villages.
You only have to look at the recent food festival in Alnwick Market Place, when visitors made the most of the good weather by filling the tables outside a number of venues, to see that al-fresco is popular and adds to the ambience of such events. Even at this time of year, folk will still sit outside with a cup of tea or coffee, despite the chill in the air.
Long may it remain free for businesses to continue this service.