It has been a long time between drinks, but Sydneysiders will be able to enjoy a bite and beverage in outdoor public spaces at one of the city’s most famous spots as early as next weekend as the State Government forges ahead with its alfresco dining plans.
The Rocks will be the first area where hospitality venues will be allowed to expand into public outdoor spaces, including footpaths, streets and carparks, by October 16.
Parts of George St, which is closed to cars, will also welcome the alfresco trade with outdoor dining to expand from the beginning of November (for a 12-month pilot) in the city centre.
The initiative is expected to roll out across other council areas by the end of the year in a bid to revive the hospital industry, which has been crushed by the coronavirus crisis.
The move by the Government’s Alfresco Taskforce aligned with the fast approaching summer, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello announced on Tuesday.
“We have cut through red tape to make this happen in a very short time frame,” Mr Dominello said.
“We’re working with City of Sydney and Place Management NSW, the landowner for The Rocks, to condense what was previously a three-month process involving multiple agencies into a single application that takes a week.”
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said hospitality venues would be able to apply for an outdoor dining licence without needing planning approval as the Government looks to revitalise businesses while social distancing measures remain in place.
He said the plan was to encourage people back to the city.
“What we’re doing is getting out of the way – making processes simpler and easier for business owners to quickly take advantage of our unbeatable summer climate and set up outdoor areas for patrons to enjoy,” Mr Stokes said.
“We are doing this by trialling policy changes that mean a planning approval will not be needed for restaurants, bars and cafes to extend their business to outside areas.”
Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said councils were being encouraged to look at how they could fast-track outdoor dining area approvals while adhering to COVID-safe practices.
She said the plan was to ensure as many venues as possible were ready to offer an alfresco option come summer.
“By slashing government approval times, we want businesses and councils to work together to identify spaces for outdoor dining,” she said.
“For example, there might be an unused carpark next to your premises or some sunny pavement out the front of your restaurant – these could be perfect spaces to apply to use.”
The outdoor dining boost comes just weeks after the State Government scrapped a decade-long freeze on new liquor licences for pubs, clubs and bottle shops in the CBD and Kings Cross in a bid to boost the economy once restrictions lift.
The changes kick in on December 1 and will allow venues to apply to open without having to purchase a liquor licence from an existing venue.