Inner-city restaurants, bars and cafes are being fast-tracked to offer alfresco dining in Sydney, under a plan to offer new-look street eateries.

Launched in December, the initiative offers a free, fast-tracked application process for outdoor dining, with 204 City of Sydney alfesco dining permits already granted across inner-Sydney.

The City will now waive all alfresco dining permit fees until June 2022, with millions of dollars more earmarked for new outdoor dining.

Welcomed as a “game changer” by local venue owners, the initiative was the result of the NSW Government and City of Sydney’s initial $20 million commitment to support revitalisation of the CBD struggling under COVID lockdowns.

City of Sydney council has now pledged a further $5.7 million for alfesco activations, with $3.5 million to extend fee-free outdoor dining until June 2022 and an additional $2.2 million for inner-city events and activations.

The council’s funding commitment to alfresco dining in Sydney is on top of the NSW Government’s further $20 million for the CBD revitalisation program, announced at the Sydney CBD Summit in April.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the success of the outdoor dining initiative showed people were ready to return to the city and support local businesses.

“The city is bouncing back from its forced hibernation and we’re making it easier for more businesses to go alfresco, which will give our economy another major boost,” he said.

“We know people want to get back out and enjoy our great city, we’ve seen that with the success of the Sunset Piazza and Culture Up Late programs.

“Making it easier for businesses to adopt alfresco dining in Sydney has worked in tandem with the rollout of the Dine & Discover voucher program and provided the flexibility needed to help reignite our harbour city.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that to date 2,690sqm has been approved under the al fresco program, including new road reallocation plus new and expanded approvals on the footpath, helping kick-start the city’s economic recovery.

“Waiving outdoor dining fees was one of the first things we did when the pandemic hit Sydney, to make it easier for restaurants, bars and cafes to operate while encouraging physical distancing,” she said.

“People have really embraced it, with participating businesses telling us they’ve taken on extra staff and seen increased patronage – a crucial aid to staying afloat in these difficult times.

“By working with the state government to cut through red tape and waive fees for outdoor dining permits, we’re supporting local businesses and allowing visitors, residents and workers to enjoy new outdoor dining experiences. “COVID is not over, and neither is our economic recovery. So to support business and keep people healthy, outdoor dining will be free at least until the end of the financial year.”

Of approved applications, 69 per cent (116) are on the footway and 31 per cent (52) on the roadway. A city survey of restaurants and cafes participating in the alfresco outdoor dining program shows the initiative has given businesses a significant boost:

  • 90 per cent reported new outdoor dining was beneficial or even crucial to their business
  • 45 per cent are employing an additional two or more staff a week
  • 41 per cent have increased staff hours by 10 or more hours a week
  • 58 per cent saw a turnover increase of up 10 per cent

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the Government was cutting red tape and lowering the cost to do business in response to the pandemic.

“With no application fees, no rental fees and no security bond fees for outdoor dining, it is a win-win for businesses and Sydneysiders looking to enjoy time together,” Mr Dominello said.

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said the initiative would help breathe new life into businesses.

“The NSW Government is committed to supporting people, businesses and communities, which is why we’re working with the City of Sydney to unlock potential and create new opportunities,” Mr Tudehope said.

“This initiative means venues can apply to transform car parking space into outdoor dining and some venues may request more footpath space to attract customers.

“It is about greater certainty and opening up more capacity for venues so they can continue to host guests and serve top notch food and drinks.”

The City of Sydney and NSW Government have worked together to streamline the free application process and make it easier for businesses to set up tables and chairs in laneways, footpaths and parking bays. Concrete barriers decorated with artwork from the City’s hoardings artwork collection separate diners from traffic.

Paul Burnicle, general manager of the Dolphin Hotel on Crown Street, praised the initiative as a hospitality “gamechanger”.

“We’ve just had the roadside barriers installed and the space looks phenomenal,” Mr Burnicle said.

“It has really added another element to our venue and Crown Street as a whole. It’s great to see Sydney coming back to life after the year we’ve all endured.

“From start to finish, applying to final execution, the whole idea and process has been seamless. Kudos to all for making this happen.”