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Make Yourself at Home with... Sheffield's New Pavement Culture

The rise of pavement cafe culture in Sheffield has given cafes, pubs and bars a new lease of life after lockdown measures were eased.

Pavement cafe culture has long been part of the allure of continental cities, inviting you to imagine sipping on a piping hot espresso in the early morning sun or tucking into local food with friends as the last embers of the day drift off.

Cafe culture has been visible on the streets of Britain for some time, but its presence has been relatively unassuming. That is until 2020 arrived, leading cafes throughout the UK and in our own fair city of Sheffield to embrace the outdoors with open arms.

We first wrote about Sheffield’s pavement cafe revolution in August. As the city continues to transform, we decided to keep the conversation going by talking to a selection of independent businesses to find out what they think about the ongoing developments.

2020 has of course been a torrid year for independent cafes, pubs and bars, especially those that haven’t been able to move to home deliveries during lockdown. When lockdown measures began to ease and more relaxed social distancing rules were brought in, Sheffield City Council responded by giving businesses the opportunity to apply for a free temporary license which would enable them to use their outside spaces with the purpose of increasing capacity and enticing customers back.

Sheffield City Council’s quick and progressive response has played a pivotal role in encouraging cafe-goers to return to their favourite hangouts and revitalising local spending in the sector. The scheme has proved to be a fantastic success, with 75 businesses applying for the licenses up to 15 September, with 57 of these approved and another 5 awaiting a decision.

We’ve chatted to a variety of independent traders within the hospitality industry who’ve successfully applied to the license scheme and their response to Sheffield’s booming al fresco community has been overwhelmingly positive.

Coles Corner 1

Cole's Corner on Abbeydale Road.

Sophie from the Millowners Arms in Kelham Island thinks more outdoor socialising has “brought a completely different vibe and atmosphere to Sheffield.”

“Usually you’d have really busy pubs, where everyone’s crammed in and everyone’s on top of each other, whereas now it just seems a lot more relaxed and comfortable. People are just enjoying being outdoors and possibly exploring places in Sheffield that they wouldn’t usually have looked into before.”

For Public, it has been a welcome opportunity to increase the visibility and the seated capacity of their underground cocktail bar. “Extending outside has brought brand awareness for people, because a lot of people walk past and don’t know where we are, so it’s worked well on both sides of brand exposure and also allowing us to keep our numbers at a nice amount to keep ticking over as a business,” said Bryn Lovell.

Wendy from Hillsborough’s Brass Monkey said, “Being a small micropub, the seating outside has helped a great deal and also made people recognise that we are a small bar in this area.”

Cole’s Corner on Abbeydale Road have been able to utilise the private land attached to their cafe to create a new outdoor space made up of three comfy booths.

Owner and manager Nicole Jewitt said, “Lots of people say that they feel like they’re on holiday when they’re sat out there with the music on, especially when the sun’s shining. We’re trying to make people escape from normal day to day life and just sit down and have a nice cake and coffee and enjoy the reggae music.”

According to the Council, an average of one venue a day is currently applying for a new license. The scheme is currently temporary, but it will continue for the foreseeable future and will be reviewed every six months, with the possibility of extension if it continues to be successful.


The Millowners Arms at Kelham Island.

Conversations about mental health and wellbeing often cite being outdoors as a great way of boosting happiness and the rise of pavement cafe culture in Sheffield signals a move towards the creation of more welcoming spaces where people can meet up, relax and socialise.

It’s a clear demonstration of the innovation, resilience and determination of Sheffield’s indie cafes, pubs and bars that they’ve cracked on and persevered this year in the most difficult circumstances. At the time of writing the sun is shining, the weather forecast is favourable and for now we can continue to take advantage of pavement cafe culture in Sheffield.

So take a stroll through your neighbourhood, head to your favourite spot or try somewhere new — and raise a glass to the great outdoors.

Visit Sheffield City Council's website to apply to the Temporary Coronavirus Pavement Cafe Scheme. Businesses can loan Make Yourself At Home banners for their outside space free of charge by emailing [email protected]

Learn more

Make Yourself At Home is a collaborative campaign, which means groups, companies and organisations in Sheffield are encouraged to use its assets and messaging as part of a collective recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Reopening High Streets Safely (RHSS) project is receiving up to £500,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)
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