A government minister has written to councils urging them to avoid 'overzealous' enforcement of reopening rules on outdoor hospitality.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said local authorities need to be doing "everything [they] can to help businesses prosper".
It comes after numerous operators took to social media this week after being told their outdoor areas, including shelters and marquees, were not Covid compliant.
This included the Caxton Arms in Brighton, which was unable to reopen its open-air beer garden on Monday after the council ruled it would not have sufficient airflow. Brighton Council have since reversed the decision.
Other pubs and restaurants told of their frustration at local authorities enforcing different interpretations of rules around outdoor mask wearing and social distancing.
In a letter to council leaders, Jenrick wrote: "I would encourage you all to ensure that this guidance is applied proportionately and consistently in your areas to support businesses to reopen safely and to avoid overzealous interpretations of the rules.
"It is in the public interest that local residents can socialise in a licensed and controlled environment outside, where Covid-19 risks are lower."
He said the number of hospitality businesses making use of fast-track pavement licenses for outdoor dining has varied drastically across the country and called on councils to encourage their use.
"Cutting red tape in this way is a lifeline for businesses as they look to bounce back form a uniquely challenging year," said Jenrick.
"We need your support to ensure the measures are known, made use of and not impeded necessarily - jobs and enterprise depend on it.
"I would urge you to show pragmatism and proportionality at all times, doing everything you can to help businesses prosper again."