Al fresco dining opens across Sydney
While Melbourne’s hospitality industry is counting the cost of yet another lockdown, Sydney’s inner-city restaurants, bars and cafes are backing fast-tracked al fresco dining options. And locals show they’re happy to pull up a seat in the new-look street eateries.
Launched in December, the initiative offers a free, fast-tracked application process for outdoor dining. A total of 204 City of Sydney Al Fresco Dining permits have already been granted across inner Sydney. The city will now waive all Al Fresco Dining permit fees until June 2022. Millions more dollars have also been earmarked for new outdoor dining.
Welcomed as a positive turning point for local venue owners, the initiative was the result of the NSW Government and City of Sydney’s initial $20 million commitment to support the revitalisation of the CBD struggling under COVID lockdowns.
NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet says the success of the outdoor dining initiative shows that people are ready to return to the city and support local businesses.
“The city is bouncing back from its forced hibernation,” he says. “And we’re making it easier for more businesses to go al fresco, which will give our economy a major boost. Making it easier for businesses to adopt al fresco dining has worked in tandem with the Dine & Discover voucher rollout. This provides the flexibility needed to help reignite our city.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore says that, to date, 2690 square metres have been approved under the al fresco program. This includes new road reallocation and new expanded approvals on the footpath, helping to kick-start the city’s economic recovery.
“Waiving outdoor dining fees makes it easier for restaurants, bars and cafes to operate while encouraging physical distancing,” Moore says. “People have really embraced it. Participating businesses tell us they’ve taken on extra staff and seen increased patronage. It’s a crucial aid to staying afloat in these difficult times.
“COVID is not over, and neither is our economic recovery. So to support business and keep people healthy, outdoor dining will be free at least until the end of the next financial year.”
A game changer
A City of Sydney survey of restaurants and cafes participating in the Al Fresco City program shows the initiative has given businesses a significant boost. Ninety percent report outdoor dining has been beneficial or even crucial to their business; 45 percent are employing an additional two or more staff a week. Forty-one percent have increased staff hours by 10 or more hours a week; 58 percent have seen a turnover increase of up 10 percent.
Paul Burnicle, General Manager of the Dolphin Hotel on Sydney’s Crown Street, has praised the al fresco initiative as a “game changer” for the city’s hospitality industry.
“We’ve just had the roadside barriers installed and the space looks phenomenal,” he says. “It has really added another element to our venue, and Crown Street as a whole. It’s so good to see Sydney coming back to life after the year we’ve all endured.”