BUSINESSES in Bolton town centre are being urged to create a continental cafe-style culture — by paying less to have tables and chairs outside.
More street cafes could pop up in the town centre after council bosses agreed to reduce the tariffs for businesses putting tables and chairs outside.
It will see the cost of licences for cafes, bars and restaurants with outside seating reduced by as much as 80 per cent in the first year.
The scheme is the latest put forward by the council to boost town centre trading.
Town Hall chiefs have also approved plans to turn Newport Street into a “European-style boulevard” with a £1 million investment — although this has resulted in the loss of the charity canopy.
Cllr Nick Peel said that since the council introduced licences for outside chairs and tables in 2006, lots of businesses have taken up the offer and boosted trade as a result.
He added: “There have not been any issues at all. The equipment has gone back in at night and there hasn’t been any trouble.
“With all that in mind, we’re comfortable in reducing the tariffs.
“The loss of money to the council is very small, weighed up against the benefits to businesses.
“As we’re approaching summer, customers clearly like it and the sitting-out areas are very popular.
“It benefits businesses and this will encourage more businesses to put chairs outside.”
Previously, businesses faced paying £595 for a 12-month licence, regardless of how many tables and chairs were put outside their shop, with a renewal costs at £167 a year.
The new calculations with see cafes pay just £122 a year if they put two tables outside, with the rates increasing on a sliding scale up to 16 tables, costing £572 per annum.
Alex McVey, owner of the Odessa Cafe, off Victoria Square, welcomed the change.
The shop has four tables outside which, Mr McVey says, also work as an advertisement to show that the cafe is open.
He added: “It’s crazy that we currently pay the same as Costa as they’ve got lots of seats expanding out into the square.
“We don’t actually get many people who want to sit outside, but it doesn’t help that the shop facing us is empty.
“All the right signs are that the council is pushing for an improvement in the town centre, and it’s the right way forward — but they’ve got to get pushing.”
WHAT do shoppers think about a cafe culture in Bolton town centre? Reporter Paddy Dinham spoke to shoppers in Victoria Square to get their views on the plans: Susan Wilkes, aged 45, from Sharples, thought it was a good idea.
She ssaid: “It brings business into the town and people will feel relaxed and comfortable.
“There’s already several coffee shops, so they might need to do something different to add some variety because they all do the same thing.”
Donna Smith, aged 26, from Adlington, said more cafes would make “a nice change to the pound shops”.
She added: “I always like going to independent places rather than big chains, so I think it would be nice to have a bit of choice.
“There’s plenty of open space. It would be nice to try it, but I’d be worried places would get vandalised.”
Rick Adamson, aged 79, from Deane, thought Bolton would benefit from the plans.
He said: “The cafes never seem to have many people in, but with more choice it could be a good idea.
“It would certainly liven the town centre up a bit. More cafes cannot be anything other than a good thing, I’m all for it.”
Tracy Baker, aged 37, from Great Lever, said: “I think it’s a good idea because, if it’s too hot, then people can sit outside and have something to eat or drink outside, rather than being stuck inside.
“I don’t really think bringing the European feeling to Bolton is realistic at all, though.”
Derek Gradwell, aged 42, from Westhoughton, said the plans sounded good — so long as it did not rain.
He added: “The very small percentage of the year that we don’t have rain in Bolton, it would be a good idea, but outside that short summer we have, I’m not entirely sure it would work.
“You might want the odd person wanting a smoke, but other than that its usage may be limited.”