From 12 April 2021 outdoor areas at hospitality venues (cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, social clubs, including in member’s clubs) can reopen with outdoor shelters.

However, to be considered ‘outdoors’, shelters, marquees and other structures must not be ‘enclosed’ or ‘substantially enclosed’. They can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open at all times whilst in use. NB: If a structure has temporary sides e.g. a marquee, these must be removed not just rolled up if they are not counted as part of the 50%.

What does ‘enclosed’ and ‘substantially’ mean?


A premises will be considered to be enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof, and, except for doors, windows or passageways, are wholly enclosed, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. This includes tents and marquees as well as solid structures.

Enclosed wooden gazebo - Not compliant

Enclosed fabric gazebo - Not compliant

Substantially Enclosed

A premises/area will be considered to be substantially enclosed if it has a ceiling or roof, but there are openings in the walls which have an area that is less than half of the premises perimeter area. This is often referred to as the 50% Rule. Other structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of the premises should be counted as part of the enclosed area. Doors, windows or other fittings that can be opened or shut must always be counted as part of the enclosed area, as stated in the legislation.

Substantially enclosed wooden shelter - Not compliant
Substantially enclosed fabric/plastic shelter - Not compliant

What is the 1.5m rule?

Rother & Wealden Environmental Health requires businesses to ensure that the ‘open sides’ of their outdoor structure are at least 1.5m away from any materials or structure that would act to enclose these sides, e.g. a garden wall, trellis, furniture, etc. If such materials were too close to the open side then they may prevent the shelter being fully ventilated and lead to it becoming an enclosed area.

Shelter with less than 1.5m clearance - Not compliant
Shelter with plants growing over it with less than 1.5m clearance - Not compliant

How can I make my shelter/area compliant?

A shelter with a roof is considered outdoors when at least 50% of the perimeter walls are open on a permanent basis and unobstructed by any nearby walls or other material up to a distance of 1.5m e.g. a structure with a roof and one wall.

Open sided gazebo with roof - Compliant
Bus shelter style shelter - Compliant

Put simply:

  • If an area has no roof, seating will be permitted within it and no further calculations will be needed; provided that adjoining walls, structures etc. do not restrict air movement.
  • If 50% of the walls or more are missing then it is legal for people to sit in the area
  • If more than 50% of the walls are present then it is illegal for people to sit in the area

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