A new task force set up by the NSW government will aim to improve Sydney’s outdoor drinking and dining scene in the wake of Covid-19 by making the most of the city’s temperate climate. The task force – which includes government agencies such as Liquor & Gaming NSW, NSW Health and the NSW Police Force, as well as local governments – will work to cut down on red tape to encourage venues to take advantage of al fresco dining (and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission associated with indoor dining).

“We’re at a point where we need a cultural transformation to breathe life back into hospitality businesses, and it makes sense to take advantage of NSW’s great climate and superb hospitality offerings, while adapting to a world where Covid transmission remains a risk,” said Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello in a statement.

Not only will the government work to streamline outdoor-dining approvals, it will also work with businesses to better use open spaces such as footpaths, squares and plazas. The program is slated to be in place before summer, so venues and patrons can take advantage of outdoor dining when the warm weather hits. A similar plan has been in place in The Rocks since July, with a stretch of George Street closed off to cars and turned into an outdoor dining area.

“Our climate is perfect for al fresco dining, which brings life and vibrancy to our streets and public squares and gives people a reason to visit city centres,” said Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore supports the plan, and says the city will launch a pilot program to turn laneways, footpaths and high streets into al fresco dining spots. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, dining will be brought outdoors onto Crown Street in Surry Hills and Pitt Street in the CBD, and a section of Barrack Street in the CBD will be closed off to facilitate al fresco dining.

“We live in a beautiful city, with a wonderful year-long climate,” Moore wrote on Facebook. “And the city has spent the last decade installing high-quality street paving, supporting small bars and creating a pedestrian spine up George Street.”

The launch of the pilot program comes after last week’s announcement by the government of a vision for a 24-hour city. The plan will reduce restrictions on live-music venues, make it easier for small bars to get licences, and encourage late-night dining.