Under the Victorian government’s current road map to reopening, Melbourne’s restaurants, cafes and bars can begin serving dine-in customers again from October 26, provided the state records a daily average of less than five cases in the preceding two weeks. (Fingers crossed.)
The plan, released last Sunday, says service during this initial reopening will be “predominantly outdoor”. This morning Premier Daniel Andrews shared more details about what that means.
The government has committed $87.5 million to support cafes, restaurants and bars outside the CBD and usher in an outdoor dining culture that it hopes will last “for many summers” to come. Laneways and certain streets will close, and parks and gardens near restaurants will be given over for use. The plan is inspired by New York’s Open Restaurants initiative, which has reportedly kept the city’s restaurants afloat throughout the pandemic.
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“Many cities like New York and London have led the way in transforming footpaths and roads to whole new experiences,” the premier said in a statement. “Melbourne and Victoria will apply the best overseas experience to create a new, exciting model for outdoor entertainment as the weather begins to warm up.”
Eligible businesses (with an annual payroll of less than $3 million) will receive $5000 to pay for outdoor furniture, umbrellas, partitions and other such items.
The premier also emphasised the importance of speed. Local councils will receive $30 million to streamline the permit process and reduce wait times.
“There needs to be some urgency with this,” he said. "We don’t want bureaucratic delays. We don't want arguments and debates. We want as many people seated in as quick a time as possible, utilising public space that has never been on offer previously.”
“It will be something that I think Victorians will love and appreciate,” said Industry Support and Recovery Minister Martin Pakula. “It will create a new alfresco environment for CBD dining which will, I suspect, be enjoyed for many summers hence.”
A joint $100 million fund established by the state government and the City of Melbourne was also announced today, to support the hospitality, arts and entertainment industries in the CBD only, and encourage that same outdoor dining culture. Streets and laneways in the CBD will also close for the benefit of restaurants, cafes and bars.
$30 million of that will go to small- and medium-sized businesses to “rapidly adapt their operations to be more Covid safe and comply with health directions.” Another $30 million is earmarked for Covid-safe events and cultural activities to attract visitors back to the CBD. The remaining $40 million will be spent on infrastructure in the city to make it more “safe, accessible and sustainable”.
As of now, there’s no word on what kind of funding individual businesses would receive or how it would need to be spent.