Council to reintroduce outdoor dining fees
The City of Melbourne will extend outdoor dining permit fee waivers for traders in Docklands until June 30 next year, while providing a 50 per cent discount for parklets in the rest of the municipality including Southbank.
After supporting hospitality businesses to trade outdoors for free during the past two years, the council says it will look to reintroduce some fees – allowing business owners to choose if they want to continue using their outdoor space.
Councillors supported a recommendation from management at its meeting on September 27, which will see fees reintroduced in all other parts of the municipality except Docklands from November 1.
In “realising revenue of up to $716,000” the council said the measured return to regular permitting would support “city-shaping projects, events and activations, and initiatives to make the city cleaner and safer”.
And in offering further respite to business owners in Docklands, the council has agreed to continue waiving fees for another eight months – providing $34,000 in benefits to 107 permit holders.
The council says busker permit fees would also be frozen until June 30, 2023 “to keep the city streets humming with local talent”.
With the council reporting that monthly pedestrian activity has exceeded the pre-COVID 2019 level at Southbank since April 2022, with activity in August 2022 up 13 per cent, Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said it was the right time to reintroduce fees.
“Melbourne is springing back to life. We’re continuing to see steady growth in foot traffic, retail and night-time spend back to pre-pandemic levels. The data tells us that now is the right time to return to our regular outdoor dining permitting processes,” Cr Reece said.
“By gradually reintroducing fees, we can continue to improve our neighbourhoods, build our city-shaping projects and deliver stellar events that make Melbourne the best place to live, work, study and visit.”
Yarra River Business Association executive officer Tim Bracher said it appreciated the “extensive help offered to businesses by the council” and agreed with the gradual reintroduction of fees, “as a no-fee regime cannot stay forever”.
“The outdoor dining has not only helped businesses get back on their feet but has enlivened the streets of Melbourne and we hope it is an element that stays,” Mr Vincent said.
“We urge the council to reintroduce fees and other restrictions always in consultation with the business community.”
Business owners can also apply for flexible payment plans with the option to pay permit fees in instalments rather than one-off payments, while traders with existing permits can choose to opt out of the program and return parklet and footpath dining areas to the council.
“Parklet infrastructure would be removed at no cost to businesses,” the council said in a statement.
Since October 2020, the council has waived more than $2.36 million in application and permit fees for outdoor dining and busking and provided $1.1 million in outdoor dining infrastructure to hospitality businesses.
The council said that the “Extended Outdoor Dining Program”, funded through the $200 million Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund – a joint partnership between the council and state government – had also helped sustain the city’s “bounce back”. •