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FOOD & DRINK

The City of Melbourne Is Looking to Turn Closed-Down Streets Into Outdoor Dining Spaces

When patrons are allowed to eat in again at the city's hospitality businesses, dining will expand onto footpaths, on-street car parking spaces, laneways and even street space.
By Sarah Ward
September 19, 2020
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The City of Melbourne Is Looking to Turn Closed-Down Streets Into Outdoor Dining Spaces

When patrons are allowed to eat in again at the city's hospitality businesses, dining will expand onto footpaths, on-street car parking spaces, laneways and even street space.
By Sarah Ward
September 19, 2020
  shares

When the Victorian Government revealed its reopening roadmap to take the state out of its strict current COVID-19 lockdowns, it flagged a big shift for Melbourne's hospitality scene. While outdoor dining isn't an unfamiliar concept, it's a key part of Victoria's plans to allow restaurants, cafes and eateries to start welcoming customers back onto the premises. In fact, when hospitality businesses in the metropolitan Melbourne area are permitted to move away from takeaway and delivery-only operations — earmarked for Monday, October 26, as long as the state has a state-wide average of less than five new COVID-19 cases over the previous 14 days, with less than five cases coming from an unknown source in the same period — they'll be asked to run "predominantly outdoor seated service only".

Just what that requirement entails has received plenty of attention over the past few weeks, with both the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne providing some details. Both outlined a similar al fresco approach to the one currently being employed in New York City, which allows food venues to temporarily use sidewalks and curbs for openair dining to cater to more customers within health restrictions — and now the local powers-that-be have unveiled a temporary extended outdoor dining permit scheme, and explained what said permits can be used for.

When eat-in service recommences, Melburnians won't just tucking into a meal outdoors — they'll be dining on footpaths, in on-street car parking spaces that have been taken over by adjacent businesses, in laneways and even on the street. All four options are listed by the City of Melbourne as reasons to obtain a free permit, with the plan forming part of the City of Melbourne and Victorian Government's $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund.

"We're reopening the city for business and will work with venues to find outdoor dining opportunities appropriate for their unique part of the city," said Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp in a statement. "We will continue to advocate for flexibility so restaurants and cafes can open indoors in a COVID-safe way sooner," she continued, while also noting that the city "will balance the expansion of outdoor dining with the needs of our residents" — considering traffic conditions, the safety of patrons, and maintaining access for pedestrians, residents and essential vehicles.

Duke of Kerr by Kate Shanasy

The Lord Mayor also gave an indication of what street closures could look like, with roadways shut down to create more space for dining and entertainment on weekends. "Temporary street closures would create a festive atmosphere for outdoor dining. We could temporarily close locations such as Bellair Street in Kensington and Faraday Street in Carlton to help businesses trade safely," she explained.

Among the other sites that could be temporarily closed for dining, Bourke Street between Exhibition and Spring streets, Russell Street between Lonsdale and Bourke streets, Domain Road in South Yarra and Errol Street in North Melbourne have all been floated.

For businesses that don't have access to an outdoor space — that can't trade in front of their premises on a footpath, on-street car parking spaces, laneways and or on the street — the City of Melbourne is also looking to create hospitality hubs a to around town that let these venues come together.

Obviously, exactly when these outdoor dining plans will come into effect is dependent on COVID-19 case numbers. That said, businesses can start applying for permits from Thursday, October 1.

For more information about the City of Melbourne's extended outdoor dining permits, visit the local government body's website.

Additional details about the City of Melbourne's COVID-19 response are also available on its the website. And for more information about the Victorian Government's roadmap, head to vic.gov.au.

Top image: Good Times by Kate Shanasy

Published on September 19, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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