Bristol restaurant feels it is 'being punished' after council restricts outdoor seating

Pasta Loco on Cotham Hill closed in July 2023 and is now the home of Thai Tapas restaurant and bar, Mangosteen
-Credit: (Image: Paul Gillis/Bristol Live)

The owner of a Cotham restaurant relatively new to the area has said it feels it is "being punished" after the council has put restrictions in place for its outdoor seating. Mangosteen, a Thai Tapas restaurant and bar which opened on Cotham Hill back in March, has described having issues with a pavement licence, which its owner said was part of the reason behind the eventual closure of the previous restaurant on the site.

Loki Stokes from Mangosteen said: "Mangosteen exists within the site previously known as Pasta Loco. Pasta Loco shut down when they lost their outdoor seating because of the pedestrianisation of Cotham Hill.

"Since then, the council have explained that outdoor seating at restaurants along the street must only exist within the permitted pavement licence area, which is essentially the area where parking along the street would have been. Pasta Loco had built over the pavement between the road and the restaurant, which is why the council asked for the outdoor structure to be removed.

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"However, we plan to build something which exists only in the licensed area (on the road itself, but not over the pavement, and not in the way of the pedestrianised foot and cycle path). However, the council have frustrated these efforts.

"We originally had benches outside, which are heavy and cannot be moved. The reason we have done this is because the council have put a large planter bed right in the middle of our pavement licence area, which makes any outdoor seating difficult.

"However, the council asked us to remove these because there are people using them to sit and drink on late at night. It makes more sense to have an outdoor seating area like Bravas do, who are neighbours of ours on Cotham Hill. That way we could store foldable furniture to prevent extra-licensed use.

"But the council have so far told us to remove the fixed outdoor benches. They have then emailed to say that we cannot move the planter beds to the partition line next to the neighbouring restaurants, and that it has to stay right in the middle of our outdoor seating area. This makes any outdoor seating difficult. They are also not meaningfully responding to any negotiation about this."

Mr Stokes went on to describe how neighbouring establishments, Bravas and VietKitchen, have outdoor seating areas and canopies, adding that "no other restaurant along the street has a flower planter bed right outside their restaurant. We have no idea why it seems that we are being punished for this".

He has claimed that other restaurants on the Hill are receiving "preferential treatment" and that the council hasn't provided Mangosteen with a reason for why this might be.

Bristol City Council has been approached for comment. Pasta Loco, which called the site home until its closure in July 2023, was the first restaurant from the family team who went on to open Pasta Ripiena, Pizza Bianchis and Cotto across Bristol.

In a statement at the time of the closure, owners Dominic Borel and Ben Harvey said that they had made the decision to close “with a heavy heart”.

They said the closure was in part down to difficulties within the hospitality industry such as rising costs of energy, labour and ingredients and landlords ‘hiking rent’. But said the “final nail in the coffin” was Bristol City Council’s pedestrianisation scheme for Cotham Hill which they claimed would result in the restaurant losing the majority of its outside tables during its busiest period over the summer.

During the work, businesses had been asked to remove any structures from Cotham Hill, although the authority said at the time that, for the most part, tables and chairs could continue to be used. Pasta Loco said it had been allocated only enough space for "two outdoor tables".

Mr Stokes went on to say: "We are working really hard at Mangosteen and it's a new business and concept. We think that outdoor seating and canopy, like Bravas or VietKitchen, would allow us to store and fold down furniture overnight to prevent use outside of licensed hours, and thus assuage council concerns.

"We are also willing to spend a lot of money on an outdoor seating area and canopy which would add to the beautification, reputation, and attraction of Cotham Hill. It just seems that the council here are trying to punish businesses, when we are just trying to attract more people to the area. I don't understand why this is.

"I believe that businesses should be treated fairly and that independent businesses like the ones on Cotham Hill should be encouraged and not made to feel dis-enthused."