Footpaths and parking bays across Port Phillip are taking on a festive flavour as traders transform these public spaces into enticing outdoor dining destinations.
Port Phillip Council is working closely with local businesses and trader groups to ensure as many temporary outdoor dining sites as possible are ready to take orders when COVID-19 restrictions ease tomorrow.
Railway Club Hotel owner Jonathan Woolley is playing for high stakes this summer as lockdowns have prevented his popular Port Melbourne steak restaurant from operating for much of this year.
As COVID-19 safety rules reduce the number of tables he can put on the footpath or make available for inside bookings, Mr Woolley has placed several outdoor dining pods on four parking bays outside his hotel.
When we reopened our phone bookings, people were requesting to be seated in the pods as they want to try being outdoors," he said. "I can seat 42 diners in the pods and eight on the footpath which means I can achieve the outdoor maximum of 50 for my premises. So this will make a big difference when we play catch-up after being closed for so long. It's a real game-changer – we're a viable business again."
Mr Woolley said he appreciated Council's assistance, which included swiftly assessing his application and providing a permit at no cost. "They understood what I wanted to achieve and helped me to get ready to reopen. We can't wait to welcome everyone back."
City of Port Phillip CEO Peter Smith said Council is keen for local traders, hard-hit by the pandemic, to have a safe and successful summer.
"Facilitating outdoor dining under our Live Love Local campaign by granting extended footpath trading or turning parking bays into business parklets is just one of the ways we are helping traders make the most of the hugely important summer trading season," Mr Smith said.
Criteria such as appropriate locations and no pedestrian or safety concerns must be met before an open space permit can be issued for three months with the option of a three month extension.
The Victorian Government is providing $500,000 from its Local Councils Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package for assistance including barriers and planter boxes for business parklets.
As of 26 October 2020, there were 67 extended footpath trading applications. Thirty-three per cent had been approved by that date, with an average turnaround of five days. Business parklets have attracted 85 applications with 16 already permitted. If a parklet is not feasible, footpath trading may be an option.
Council has so far provided $240,000 in footpath trading rebates to traders for the last quarter of 2019 and waived $300,000 in footpath trading fees for July to December this year.
Outdoor dining applications totalling 39, involving laneway and street closures and pop-up parks, and for traders to use public spaces such as the foreshore, parks and reserves, are being considered. Care will be taken to ensure members of the public retain sufficient access to these outdoor spaces.