City News

Sydney’s summer alfresco revival

Outdoor dining in the rocks. Sydney's streets will open up for outdoor dining under a new proposal (photo taken before COVID-19). Photo: Wikimedia

By ALLISON HORE

This summer a number of laneways in Sydney’s CBD are set to close to traffic and open to dining as part of a plan to bring new life to the city while respecting COVID-19 restrictions.

A section of Barrack Street, off George Street, would be closed, Tankstream Way and Wilmot Lane are set to become alfresco dining areas if a proposal discussed by the NSW Government and City of Sydney goes ahead. Street-side parking on busy city thoroughfares Crown St in Surry Hills and Pitt St in the city will also be transformed into outdoor eateries under the proposal.

“We live in a beautiful city, with a wonderful year-long climate. And the City has spent the last decade installing high-quality street paving, supporting small bars and creating a pedestrian spine up George Street,” Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in an announcement on Friday.

The announcement followed Friday’s 2020 Sydney Summit, where the City of Sydney, NSW government and local businesses came together to discuss ways to revitalise the city for the upcoming summer.

The City is also proposing a stream-lined five day approval process for businesses wanting to open for outdoor dining in the CBD.

“Now, by working with the State Government to cut through remaining red tape, we will activate laneways, footpaths and high streets – realising our long-held vision of a city with boulevards of outdoor dining and live performance,” said Ms. Moore.

As the northern hemisphere summer comes to an end and Australia’s summer is right around the corner, local and state governments around the country are looking to world cities like London and New York for examples of how businesses can be allowed to better utilise outdoor space.

When outdoor dining was allowed in New York City on the 22nd of June, the city’s COVID-19 stricken hospitality scene was brought back to life. The New York City Open Restaurants scheme expanded outdoor seating options for restaurants in a move the council said would  “to promote open space, enhance social distancing, and help them rebound in these difficult economic times”. 

The new seating options included roadway dining which, similar to what is being proposed in Sydney, gave restaurants the option to transform the roadside parking outside their business into an alfresco dining area. 

Alfresco dining also transformed the dining scene in London over the summer. After being given the green light to reopen at the start of July, London’s restaurants set up outdoor tables and seating to maintain distancing. Seventeen streets in Soho, one of the city’s major dining and entertainment districts, were pedestrianised to encourage outdoor eating and drinking.

The NSW Government and the City of Sydney also announced they will work together to look into options for COVID-19 safe outdoor events such as live music performances, outdoor dining events and food festivals. 

“Alongside plans for live music and later trading, we’re excited to invite you back to the city for a wonderful – and COVID-safe – summer,” said Ms. Moore.

A case study for how outdoor dining and events may look in the upcoming summer will be the annual Night Noodle Market in October. The event typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors and is set to go ahead as planned. As the event is no longer allowed to take place at its traditional home in Hyde Park, it will have a very different format this year. Organisers are yet to announce what the noodle markets will look like but promise they will be “as you’ve never seen them before.”

To encourage Sydney-siders to come back to the city and enjoy the hospitality and cultural offerings, Lord Mayor Moore said she is in talks with the NSW Government to incentivise safe travel on public transport by providing fare-free travel for mask-wearing commuters.

“I think it would be fantastic, giving free fees on public transport to people wearing masks,” she said.

“If we can make the most of people coming out and enjoying the beautiful climate in our beautiful city, we will be able to achieve that working together – the city and government.”

The ideas discussed in Friday’s summer will help shape policy and inform the NSW Government’s upcoming budget.

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