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Expand your outdoor dining this summer

Two patrons dine outdoors at the parklet area at Saint Florian in Castlemaine.

Hospitality businesses are moving dining areas outdoors to meet COVID-19 restrictions.

Monday 21 December 2020

With summer well and truly here, Mount Alexander Shire Council is urging hospitality businesses to expand their outdoor dining options as the community embraces the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and we welcome visitors back into 2021.

Over the past few months, staff have been working with local hospitality businesses to help them prepare for the return of indoor dining and the new outdoor dining rules.

Council has also been working with local businesses and associations to identify and activate temporary spaces for outdoor dining.

“Temporary outdoor dining spaces on footpaths and in car parks enable businesses to welcome diners and maximise the number of seats while meeting COVID-19 restrictions,” said David Leathem, Manager, Economy and Culture, Mount Alexander Shire Council.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for traders to start or expand their outdoor dining space, where it is safe and practical to do so.

“We have developed a new application process for hospitality businesses to introduce or expand their outdoor dining space, following approval of a temporary permit in consultation with Council.

“There is no cost for the temporary permit and we have waived outdoor dining fees for this financial year as part of our 2020/2021 budget.”

Some of the options available for outdoor dining include the use of the footpath space in front of your own business property or in front of neighbouring properties, and the use of on-street car parking outside your business.

Other possibilities that can be explored include joining with adjacent businesses to take over laneways, on-street car parking, side streets or other council-owned spaces (such as parks or gardens), or using outdoor private property (such as a carpark on your property).

“We know not every business has the room to put tables and chairs on the footpath so we are working through each case on its own merits.

“We all need to be thinking innovatively, while considering the needs of the business and community,” said Mr Leathem.

When making an assessment on the suitability of a temporary outdoor space Council will consider priorities such as the preservation of accessibility for prams and people using mobility aids, and maintaining pedestrian and driveway access, loading zones and disability parking.

With these considerations in mind Council has already been able to provide vehicle barriers and screening to help businesses create new outdoor dining spaces with thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Victorian Government’s Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package.

Staff have recently worked with business owners at St Florian and Wild Food and Wine to repurpose a driveway and car space in front of the wine bar and café on Templeton Street in Castlemaine to create the shire’s first temporary parklet.

Customers at Saint Florian can now relax on bean bag chairs over a bright green carpet of astro turf while tucking into tasty food and a cool drink, while freeing up table space along the footpath.

According to Saint Florian co-owner Al Stanley customers the parklet is a hit.

“Our customers are loving the new relaxing parklet space,” said Mr Stanley.

“The bean chairs and artificial grass give it a slight Miami Vice feeling. We just need the lil' pink flamingos along the barriers as a finishing touch.

“It feels very safe with the barriers, and it is actually a few degrees cooler sitting under the beautiful old plane tree.

“Patrons love to ‘sink & drink’ in the informal setting, grabbing an Aperol Spritz and then sinking into the bean chairs.

“Since we still have density restrictions inside, the extra outdoor space helps us increase patronage in a safe and unique way.

“We appreciate the support from Council for helping to get this initiative off the ground to help small businesses,” he said.

On the back of this success, Council is urging other hospitality businesses to get in touch with its business recovery team to discuss their needs.

“We’ve already heard that some businesses are taking it slow to ensure they get their COVIDSafe plans and procedures right as they open up, while others were a little hesitant about the investment needed or putting barriers out in car parks.

“We just want to let businesses know we are here to help you and provide advice, while trying to make the process as easy as possible, said Mr Leathem.

“We have also have some great plans in store for Maldon, and there are other creative projects in the pipeline to liven up the streets and activate our towns in the coming months.

“Lookout for the 2021 Reactivate the Streetscape Project by the Castlemaine Fringe. We’ll also be encouraging local residents and visitors to explore the many wonderful eateries and outdoor dining locations on offer in our fantastic shire,” he said.

For more information contact Eva Parkin, Economic Development Officer, on 5471 1700 or visit www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/COVID19BusinessSupport.

“While the process may vary from business-to-business, particularly if you have a liquor licence, Council has a dedicated team available to help you through the process,” said Mr Leathem.

Image: Patrons enjoying Saint Florian's parklet in Castlemaine.

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