Last year in September the City of Greater Bendigo supported 51 businesses to expand their outdoor dining offer, which was seen as a way to assist the hospitality sector to increase its ability to trade as COVID-19 restrictions began to ease.
The trial included the option for businesses to expand along footpaths, into car parks and the northern-side of Bull Street in the city centre was closed. The trial was due to end on June 30, 2021.
Mayor Cr Jennifer Alden said the tail of the pandemic was long and continuing with expanded outdoor dining was one way to assist the local economy to recover.
“Outdoor dining has added to the overall vibrancy of the city centre and in suburban and rural areas where businesses have taken up the opportunity,” Cr Alden said.
“Community consultation broadly confirmed support for the initiative, however Council understands there are elements of expanded outdoor dining that would need to be improved if it were to continue, particularly the appearance of traffic management bollards and the use of car parks and road closures.
“The consultation process yielded constructive feedback and the continued trial will give the City more time to further engage with businesses and the community about how expanded outdoor dining could work long term.
“This decision also complements initiatives in the proposed 2021/2022 Budget, including waiving fees and charges for outdoor dining.
“Business will need to renew their local laws permits if they want to continue with the trial until April 2022 and businesses that are yet to take up the offer but may like to in future, can opt-in at any time.”
To inform Council’s decision making, the City sought feedback from the community, hospitality and non-hospitality businesses. Three surveys – one for the community, one for hospitality businesses that participated in the trial and one for hospitality businesses that were not part of the trial – and two focus groups with hospitality and non-hospitality businesses were conducted.
Ninety-seven community surveys were returned, with respondents liking the social vibe and economic benefits expanded outdoor dining delivered.
Of those surveyed, 81 per cent thought Bull Street should remain partially closed but views were mixed on whether this should be permanently or seasonally. People also felt similarly around the continued use of car parks.
For the 14 hospitality businesses that participated in outdoor dining and completed their survey, they agreed the opportunity allowed them to keep people employed and all but one business said they would like to continue.
Non-hospitality businesses were concerned about a continued loss of car parking and the overall design of precincts.