Dining out on an alfresco recovery plan

Enjoying a meal outside a local establishment this summer could become a new regular dining experience across the City of Whittlesea as hospitality businesses get the go-ahead to expand their floorspace in a COVID-Safe environment.

Council has established Business Assistance Grants of up to $5000 to help all types of local businesses adapt in a way that increases their viability during the final stages of COVID-19 restrictions and recover once Victoria hits that enviable ‘COVID-normal’ phase.

One of those ways could be for cafes and restaurants to extend their outdoor footprint, a move that is backed by the State Government and business leaders.

Administrator The Hon Bruce Billson is a champion for bringing indoor dining outdoors, spilling onto footpaths and even into car parks.

“It is great to see what is being achieved in big global cities like London and New York that have transformed outdoor spaces into amazing alfresco cafes and restaurants so these businesses can continue serving customers at a time when social distancing rules are likely to be around for a while yet,” he said.

“We can’t wait to activate our outdoor spaces in a similar way here in the City of Whittlesea and to do what we can to support our hospitality businesses at this challenging time.”

The Victorian Government has also announced grants for businesses, and councils, to make outdoor dining safe, practical and a reality across the state this summer as part of its $87.5M Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package.

“Transforming outdoor spaces into seated dining areas is a very exciting concept that needed a partnership approach between the State Government, councils and businesses to bring it alive,” Mr Billson said.

“We are very pleased with the significant financial commitment made to the hospitality industry by the Andrews’ Government, which will tap into the best overseas examples to create a new, exciting model for outdoor entertainment in Victoria. We are also grateful that the grants extend to councils across Victoria a recognition for the huge role local government will play in this space.”

Council’s $500,000 Businesses Resilience and Recovery Program is aimed at supporting all types of businesses.

“I would hope that there is something for everyone in this package of support, which includes waiving existing and new trading permit fees and implementing a fast-tracked processing system for these permits,” Mr Billson said.

“We’ll also be waiving A-Frame permit fees for signage and continue to find other innovative ways to help our businesses get back on their feet.”

Significant investment is also being made to upgrade streetscapes to improve the appeal of local shopping precincts.

“We are doing some fantastic work to re-vamp Thomastown and Lalor streetscapes to bring vibrancy and vitality back to those really important local shopping precincts that are packed with unique, one-off businesses that really add to the character of our City,” Mr Billson said.

“We appreciate that in business there is no substitute for customers. While Council can’t guarantee any business success, we can and are doing all we can to remove headwinds to recovery and facilitating the increased customer activity that is vital to business success and local employment in the face of COVID impacts.”

Council will work with businesses looking to expand their footprint and offer outdoor dining.

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