The City of Sydney has announced it will waive al fresco dining fees for inner-city hospitality venues until June next year, with 90 per cent of participants in an outdoor dining program launched in December claiming the move was beneficial or crucial to their business.
More than 200 restaurants, bars and cafes have been granted fast-tracked and free outdoor dining permits, as part of a $20 million Sydney CBD revitalisation plan for businesses struggling due to lockdowns.
The council has now pledged a further $5.7 million for the scheme, including $3.5 million to extend fee-free outdoor dining until June 2022 and an additional $2.2 million for inner-city events and activations.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet says the success of the outdoor dining initiative shows people are ready to return to the city and support local businesses.
"The city is bouncing back from its forced hibernation and we're making it easier for more businesses to go Al Fresco, which will give our economy another major boost," Perrottet says.
"We know people want to get back out and enjoy our great city, we've seen that with the success of the Sunset Piazza and Culture Up Late programs.
"Making it easier for businesses to adopt al fresco dining has worked in tandem with the rollout of the Dine & Discover voucher program and provided the flexibility needed to help reignite our harbour city."
Lord Mayor Clover Moore says 2,690 square meters has been approved to date under the al fresco program, including new road reallocation plus new and expanded approvals on the footpath, helping kick-start the city's economic recovery.
"Waiving outdoor dining fees was one of the first things we did when the pandemic hit Sydney, to make it easier for restaurants, bars and cafes to operate while encouraging physical distancing," the Lord Mayor says.
"People have really embraced it, with participating businesses telling us they've taken on extra staff and seen increased patronage a crucial aid to staying afloat in these difficult times.
"By working with the state government to cut through red tape and waive fees for outdoor dining permits, we're supporting local businesses and allowing visitors, residents and workers to enjoy new outdoor dining experiences."
In a survey of the 204 participating venues to date, it was found 45 per cent are employing an additional two or more staff a week, 41 per cent have increased staff hours by 10 or more hours a week, and 58 per cent have seen a turnover increase of up to 10 per cent.
Of approved applications, 69 per cent are on the footway and 31 per cent are on the roadway.
Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello says the government is cutting red tape and lowering the cost to do business in response to the pandemic.
"With no application fees, no rental fees and no security bond fees for outdoor dining, it is a win-win for businesses and Sydneysiders looking to enjoy time together," Dominello says.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope says the initiative will help breathe new life into businesses.
"The NSW Government is committed to supporting people, businesses and communities, which is why we're working with the City of Sydney to unlock potential and create new opportunities," Minister Tudehope says.
"This initiative means venues can apply to transform car parking space into outdoor dining and some venues may request more footpath space to attract customers.
"It is about greater certainty and opening up more capacity for venues so they can continue to host guests and serve top notch food and drinks."
The City of Sydney and NSW Government have worked together to streamline the free application process and make it easier for businesses to set up tables and chairs in laneways, footpaths and parking bays. Concrete barriers decorated with artwork from the City's hoardings artwork collection separate diners from traffic.
Paul Burnicle, general manager of the Dolphin Hotel on Crown Street, praises the initiative as a hospitality "game changer".
"We've just had the roadside barriers installed and the space looks phenomenal," Burnicle says.
"It has really added another element to our venue and Crown Street as a whole. It's great to see Sydney coming back to life after the year we've all endured.
"From start to finish, applying to final execution, the whole idea and process has been seamless. Kudos to all for making this happen."
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