Melbourne hospitality businesses will be able to apply for $10,000 grants to help them extend their dining service onto footpaths, streets and laneways, as part of a new initiative by the City of Melbourne designed to get businesses trading again and attract diners back to the CBD.
Cafes and restaurants are currently only allowed to offer takeaway and delivery services under the second step of the city’s coronavirus recovery roadmap, however, outdoor dining will be permitted when Melbourne moves to the roadmap’s third step.
Under the plan announced on Thursday, Melbourne City Council has nominated six ‘dining precincts’ where cafes and restaurants will be allowed to take over sections of on-street parking, footpaths and street space.
These precincts are located at Bourke Street East and Russell Street in the CBD; Lygon Street in Carlton; Errol Street in North Melbourne; Domain Road in South Yarra; and Bellair Street in Kensington.
A further 10 areas will be made available for businesses that don’t have existing outdoor dining areas to operate pop-up cafes and restaurants. These areas will be in city laneways, the Queen Victoria Market car park, and in Chinatown.
Businesses are now able to apply for temporary permits to operate in these precincts, or to set up tables and chairs on footpaths, in on-street parking spaces and car parks, and in laneways.
The council has said it will be free for businesses to apply for these permits. Of the 2,390 cafes and restaurants in the City of Melbourne, only 800 currently have outdoor dining permits and space.
Venues will also be permitted to team up with neighbouring businesses to use more public space, such as expanding into a laneway that is adjacent to their business.
Applications for grants now open
Businesses can now apply for a grant to support temporary outdoor dining and reopening.
Grants will also be available to businesses in industries other than hospitality to undertake COVID-safe remodelling and conversions, purchase COVID-safe equipment and infrastructure, and undertake staff training and development activities, or to use for marketing and promotions.
Applications for the grants are now open and will close at 11.59pm on Friday, October 23. Successful applicants will be announced in two rounds on October 23 and November 6.
City of Melbourne chief executive Justin Hanney said in a statement that the council will pay for the installation of bollards, planters and barriers in the outdoor dining precincts to ensure the spaces “are high quality and are inviting”.
“Businesses will be responsible for furniture such as chairs and tables, and fast grants are available to assist cash-strapped traders,” he added.
Hanney said the council is also open to hearing from business owners about other ideas to help attract diners back to the city once restrictions are lifted.
“We expect outdoor dining to be so popular with patrons this summer that it will become a permanent feature of our city for generations to come,” he said.
“We encourage business owners to keep coming forward with ideas because we want to see our cafes, restaurants and retail stores thriving again.
“We will endeavour to do everything we possibly can to assist our businesses to reopen and begin trading once restrictions lift.”
The City of Melbourne’s outdoor dining plan is modelled on the Open Restaurants initiative in New York, which reportedly helped 9,500 venues keep trading during the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Age.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has previously canvassed the potential of outdoor dining as a way to support Melbourne’s hospitality industry.
On Thursday, he said he was “very excited” about the city’s new outdoor dining precincts, which he predicted will become a long-term feature of the city.
“It’ll be done to such a high standard, I think that it can be a feature of every summer, where there’s much more drinking and dining,” he said.
“Whilst not for a moment saying there’s an equivalence between space for 50 people outside and having your restaurant full, it’s much better than being closed.
“It’s much safer than everyone being inside, and I think it will not just be here for the summer, but it’ll be here for the long term.”
For more information about the outdoor dining permits, click here.
To apply for a grant from the City of Melbourne, click here.