SEAFRONT bars and cafes have been given days to remove their outdoor chairs and tables – despite some being in place for almost a decade.
The businesses in North Terrace, Seaham, have been warned they could face court if they fail to take away the furniture within a fortnight.
They were sent letters after a complaint to Durham County Council saying people were finding it difficult to walk along the path and told they will have to put in an application for a licence.
It will cost £400, with a charge of £100 to renew it each year.
Jeremy Elder, of Leaf, Bark and Berries, said: “I’ve been here nine years now and it’s never been an issue.
“There’s plenty of room to get past.”
He added: “We’ve got a bit of a coffee culture here in Seaham, that’s what they’ve wanted, and here we are trying to put Seaham on the map and bring in tourism to County Durham.”
He added he was disappointed the council sent the warnings by letter, rather than speaking directly to the businesses, and has put the notice up in the window urging customers to call the authority to put forward their views.
Cindy Bettcher, who has run Lickety Split ice cream parlour for three years, said the move will lose it 12 seats and suggests bollards outside the shops should go.
Her £50,000 expansion plan is on hold after a grant was withdrawn as she is not the building’s owner and is now seeking other investment.
Cindy said: “For people walking their dogs or smoking, it means they can still come and sit out or just enjoy the view.
“The letter gives us 14 days, otherwise we’re going to be taken to court, but to apply for a licence will take 60 days.
“That’s 60 days where we’ll lose custom.
“Even if we get a licence, does that mean they will no longer be an obstruction?”
Brian Buckley, strategic highways manager for the council, said: “We investigated and found that access for pedestrians was severely restricted so a letter was delivered to the businesses advising that the obstructions should be removed.
“Each application is assessed on its own merit and our aim is to ensure that reasonable pedestrian access is maintained at all times.”