In a bid to support local hospitality businesses reeling from the downturn in trade due to Covid-related restrictions, the City of Melbourne has identified six key precincts for outdoor dining.

Tables and seats will be taking over footpaths, on-street car parking, laneways and street space along Bourke Street east and Russell Street in the CBD; Lygon Street in Carlton; Errol Street in North Melbourne; Domain Road in South Yarra; and Bellair Street in Kensington.

There are currently 2390 cafes and restaurants in the council area, but only 800 have permits for outdoor dining. Businesses looking to trade outdoors can apply for extended temporary permits now, with grants of up to $10,000 available for installing bollards, planters and safety barriers. Businesses are responsible for acquiring new outdoor furniture, such as chairs and tables.

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“We expect outdoor dining to be so popular with patrons this summer that it will become a permanent feature of our city for generations to come. We encourage business owners to keep coming forward with ideas because we want to see our cafes, restaurants and retail stores thriving again,” City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney said in a statement.

Neighbouring businesses can also join up to take over and share more outdoor space. Outdoor permits are free, with the application process fast-tracked so businesses can have them approved by the time step three of the Victorian government’s road map is in place, which allows restaurants and cafes to resume seated trade with density limits.

The program, modelled after New York’s Open Restaurants initiative, is part of a $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund being delivered jointly by the City of Melbourne and the Victorian government to support the hospitality, arts and entertainment industries.

More info here.