Sydney’s reopening could be defined by an outdoor dining revolution as the City of Sydney pours millions of dollars into boosting al fresco – and COVID-safe – dining options.
The City of Sydney has approved 266 al fresco dining applications as it counts down the weeks to reopening, in the hopes that outdoor dining will help hospitality businesses bounce back quickly.
The approved applications are part of an initiative that was first launched in December 2020, which provided a fast-tracked application process for bars, restaurants and pubs to extend their businesses to the footpath, roads and even car spaces in order to comply with COVID-safe capacity rules.
Most (189) of the successful applications will permit venues to have on-footpath dining, while 77 will be able to host diners through reimagined road space.
Once restrictions are eased, Sydneysiders will see new outdoor dining options pop up in central locations such as the CBD’s Pitt and Barrack Streets, Darlinghurst’s Stanley Street, and Surry Hills’ Crown and Foster Street, a City of Sydney spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
As part of the initiative, the council is also waiving al fresco dining permit fees until June 2022. Businesses with any outdoor dining can now also apply to host live entertainment.
“Our focus is to reactivate the city centre and local precincts with outdoor dining and bars, late night trading, live music, and cultural institutions staying open in the evening.”
All of this is part of a massive $20 million push by the City of Sydney and NSW Government to , which involves funding live performances, public art in laneways, outdoor spaces, keeping institutions open at night, and more.
The City of Sydney has poured an extra $5.7 million towards funding the al fresco initiatives and a further $2.2 million for inner-city events.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the council had worked “tirelessly” with businesses to identify which areas among footpaths, traffic lanes and parking spots could work as outdoor dining space.
“We have spent the lockdown working with businesses to create new outdoor dining space and ensure we’re ready to bounce back when the restrictions lift,” Moore said.
She said she hopes the outdoor dining and live entertainment spaces will “breathe life back” into the city and help local businesses bounce back.
“Our focus is to reactivate the city centre and local precincts with outdoor dining and bars, late night trading, live music, and cultural institutions staying open in the evening.
“We know that having brunch with friends, a wine after work or a quick bite while watching the world go can do genuine soul-repair in this challenging time.”
A council survey found that 90 per cent of businesses that had al fresco dining applications approved said the change benefited their businesses, and more than half (58 per cent) said they saw turnover increase by more than 10 per cent.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet added that the outdoor dining initiative would be a big boost to the local economy and work with the state’s Dine & Discover vouchers.
The $100 dining and entertainment vouchers have now been extended through to mid-2022 as NSW remains in lockdown.
NSW races to reopen
Despite recording daily COVID-19 case figures in the thousands, Australia’s most populous state is preparing to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated people once the 70 per cent vaccination target has been met.
42 per cent of NSW residents are fully vaccinated, with estimates that the 70 per cent vaccination rate will be hit in mid-October, she added.
The “final touches” are now being made to the roadmap that will outline what life will look like once the target is hit, Berejiklian said on Tuesday.
“The road map is essentially in good shape. We've made great progress,” she said. “I'm extremely optimistic that at 70 per cent double doses, everybody who is vaccinated will enjoy life much more freely than what we do today, and that's a commitment we've made from day one.”