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Fresh hope for Sydney CBD as 266 new outdoor venues approved

Image of Sydney harbourside dining before pandemic
Sydney is shaping up to have more al fresco dining options this summer. (Source: Getty) (Universal Images Group via Getty)

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.


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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.

Sydney, Australia - March 13, 2015: A narrow lane in old Surry Hills an area of Sydney known for its cultural and cafe scene.
Surry Hills, Sydney. Footpaths, roads and car spaces are being reimagined as al fresco dining spaces in a push to revitalise Sydney's CBD when lockdown ends. (Source: Getty) (Edward Haylan via Getty Images)

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 revitalise Sydney’s CBD, 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.

Australia, Sydney, The Rocks George Street historic district buildings Baroque restaurant bistro patisserie alfresco dining tables Bushells Place. (Photo by: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Baroque restaurant alfresco dining tables at Bushells Place. (Photo by: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Jeff Greenberg via Getty Images)

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.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 09: Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, poses during the Sydney Lunar Festival Media Launch on February 09, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Lunar New Year festival runs from 12 - 21 February and is celebrating the year of the Ox. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, during the Sydney Lunar Festival Media Launch on February 09, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) (Ryan Pierse via Getty Images)

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.

  • Sydney hospitality venues can apply for outdoor dining permits through the City of Sydney’s website.

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.

“Pleasingly, New South Wales has satisfied another important hurdle: 75 per cent of our state have at least the first dose of vaccine,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in Tuesday’s press conference.

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.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian takes questions during a COVID-19 update and press conference on August 27, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. NSW recorded 882 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and 2 deaths as the entire state remains in lockdown. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams-Pool/Getty Images)
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said the "final touches" are being prepared to the roadmap out of lockdown. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams-Pool/Getty Images) (Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images)

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.”

New freedoms are mere days away, but only for fully jabbed residents: from 13 September, those who have had both COVID-19 vaccine doses and live outside LGAs of concern are able to have outdoor gatherings of up to five people, including children.

The NSW Government is already preparing the state’s reopening, with Service NSW starting to trial the app as a vaccine passport. Some parts of NSW are scheduled to emerge from lockdown this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is working on international vaccine passports that will be issued as early as October, though no concrete date has been set for when travel can resume for Aussies.

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