Traders relieved after council waives outdoor dining fees

Traders relieved after council waives outdoor dining fees
Brendan Rees

Hospitality traders are breathing a sigh of relief after the City of Melbourne waived outdoor dining fees for another seven months as the city recovers from the pandemic.

Permit fees for outdoor dining and busking have been frozen since the extended outdoor dining program began in October 2020 and were due to be reinstated on April 1.

But at the council’s March 29 meeting, councillors endorsed an extension of the program until October 31 after city activation portfolio lead Cr Roshena Campbell led a motion saying, “Many businesses are still struggling as we move into the winter months” and it wasn’t “the right time to impose that fee burden on them.”

“They’re concerned about ongoing consumer confidence and early this year 74 per cent of them told us they were struggling to survive.”

For Georgia Noble, manager of Auction Rooms café in North Melbourne, the news was warmly welcomed.

“I think that’s certainly great, we’re back to normal capacity now but we have an extra 50 seats outside so for them to waive the fee that’s great,” she said, adding business had picked up significantly since the end of lockdowns with the Melbourne Grand Prix providing a further boost to trade, while Easter was also building as an exciting time.

Farah Ylagan, owner of Kensington Canteen, said she had learnt of the fee waiver after being contacted by North West City News.

She said she had paid her outdoor dining fees in full for the year, which she conceded had been a “struggle” but added, “If I can get a refund that will be really, really good.”

While Ms Ylagan added the fee waiver was also “better initiative than Melbourne Money for my case.”

“It’s mostly takeaway … so I don’t really reach the $40 spend, although I have it here no one really uses it. I think a discount on the rates would be better.”

Under the mid-week Melbourne Money scheme, which finished April 11, diners were allowed to claim 25 per cent off their bill when they spent between $40 and $500 in cafes, restaurants and bars.

Rick Sciberras, owner of Rick’s Place restaurant in Kensington, said while the fee waiver on outdoor dining was welcomed, he expressed disappointment that he had to ask the council to remove his parklet due to flooding issues.

“We got rid of it because when it rained the footpath would flood … they didn’t put anything in for the water to run underneath it,” he said of the parklet which involves re-purposing on-street parking bays into outdoor dining areas.

“Because we’re on a hill the water would hit against it and spill onto the footpath.

“They wanted to charge us $1200 a year to have it. It’s just ridiculous so I just told them to take it away.”

He said while he would’ve liked to have kept it, he was “forever cleaning up a big mess every time it rained.”

Michael Cardamone, owner of Amiconi Restaurant in West Melbourne, said while it was grateful the outdoor dining fees had been foregone, he hope they could be relinquished in the long-term, maintaining that “hospitality has been hit the hardest in every aspect”.

Cr Campbell said outdoor dining “has been critical” for small businesses that had been “hard hit” by the pandemic.

“Not only has it been a safer environment for many of them to trade in, it’s allowed them to trade through restrictions, including density limits, and help them – many of whom had suffered severe impacts to their cash flows over the past two years.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the outdoor dining program had delivered an additional 18,000 restaurant seats across 1500 businesses while creating 100 new jobs.  

“We want to entice more people to our city and help traders serve as many customers as possible, and outdoor dining is one way we can do that.” 

Meanwhile, applications have opened for small businesses to apply for grants between $500 and $5000 for air ventilation and filtration equipment to improve ventilation and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Applications close June 24 •

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John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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