Arts & Entertainment

Alfresco Revolution

Glorietta. Photo: TJ Edwards

By Rida Babar

Councils in Sydney have launched an alfresco dining initiative to boost local businesses and encourage a return to normality as the warmer months approach.

The plan, led by the City Of Sydney and Place Management NSW, has shortened the process of venues applying for approval of outdoor dining, thus incentivising it. This form of dining also reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The plan will also allow for increased live music performances, public art, and festive activities for the summer.

This initiative has been made possible as COVID-19 cases in Sydney have been on a decline in recent weeks.

City Hub spoke with Councillor Kerryn Phelps from the City Of Sydney for comment.

“I’m really glad the City Of Sydney is finally listening to the needs of business owners in the hospitality sector, but I’m disappointed it’s taken a pandemic for them to make these simple improvements to efficiency when the problems have long been evident. We still have a lot further to go.

“We have been hearing for years about stimulating our night-time economy, creating advisory committees, commissioning reports, and hosting global forums. Despite these efforts, Sydney continues to under-perform when it comes to our nightlife.

“2019 Deloitte Access Economics analysis showed Sydney’s economy was missing out on $16 billion a year due to its underdeveloped night-time economy. The time for real action is now. The potential for rethinking and reviving our night-time economy has to be part of our COVID-19 recovery.

“CBD businesses that have traditionally relied on office workers have been hard hit during the COVID crisis. As people, we initially were forced to work from home and many are now choosing to work at least part of the week from home.

“We need to entice residents out at night to rediscover their city. We have to open up the night-time economy and allow residents to become tourists in their own city. Great cities welcome all different kinds of people in the public at all times. It’s about time Sydney does too.”

Waverley Council is among others that have taken the plan on board, with a spokesperson from the council saying, Waverley Council announced a $1 million per month relief package in March to assist small businesses operating in our local government area.

“This package is aimed at helping all small businesses, including those in the retail and hospitality industries, that have been impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. It includes a range of support measures such as commercial rent support, footpath seating and mobile vendor license fee waivers and extended credit on certain fees and chargers.

“We already have significant alfresco dining experiences in the Waverley LGA which takes advantage of both our fabulous environment and adds to the eating experience. Residents and visitors to Waverley love to enjoy a coffee or a meal outdoors with friends and family, and our picturesque village centres and vibrant beachside areas are well-suited to alfresco dining.

It is collectively agreed upon by various councils in Sydney, as well as the government, that this initiative is vital for Sydney’s return to the vibrant hub that it was, and to boost the Australian economy.

Waverley council’s spokesperson revealed that businesses had been performing better in recent weeks, indicating a steady improvement. However, there is still a long way to go.

“Confidence appears to have increased for a number of reasons, some being ongoing Government stimulus, low number of local COVID-19 cases and warmer weather. There is still nervousness among traders about the summer months as the volume of people visiting the area increases as well as the risk of an increase of cases in Sydney and the restrictions that may result.”

Statistics from a study conducted by The Fork showed that 73% of Australians have dined out within the last month and that 3 in 4 Australians eat dinner out at least once a month. This indicates that the alfresco dining initiative is sure to boost the domestic economy.

A spokesperson from the Inner West Council also provided comments, saying,The Inner West is known for its diverse restaurants, bars and microbreweries, and has the largest creative industries sector in NSW.

“Council is broadly supportive of initiatives which allow businesses to safely open to the community and is exploring innovative uses of public spaces. Council recognises the need to balance public space provision and expanded outdoor dining. Inner West businesses are supported by Council with free outdoor dining licences.”

Taylor’s Rooftop, an open-air bar at the Republic Hotel on Pitt St, is one of the venues that has begun implementing alfresco dining and entertainment. Phillip Burriel of the Sydney Collective said, “Taylor’s has adapted to the new normal by offering large spaced out seating and table arrangements, pre-booking and food ordering initiatives, plenty of hygiene stations, and COVID safety marshals across the venue.

“The City Of Sydney is set to launch new alfresco dining along Pitt street at the end of November, meaning the Republic Hotel will participate in the new outdoor dining initiative to attract more customers to the CBD.”

Overall, the plan aims to boost morale and counteract some of the devastation caused by the pandemic.

In a situation where travel is not an option, the alfresco dining and entertainment initiatives will allow Sydneysiders to enjoy the amazing things that the city has to offer.

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