THE state government’s support for outdoor dining has provided some respite for the hospitality industry, albeit with widely differing effects on businesses.
The Third Step of regional Victoria’s coronavirus roadmap limits the density of patrons in hospitality to four square metres inside but only two square metres outside.
Hospitality venues are limited to 10 patrons indoors or 20 for venues that can claim two separate indoor areas. However, depending on spacing, the new restrictions allow for up to 50 people in an outdoor dining area.
The state government has since announced an $87.5 million Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package to help councils and businesses outside of Melbourne prepare safe and practical outdoor dining solutions.
Businesses can apply for a $5,000 grant to help them purchase umbrellas, outdoor furniture, screens, and other equipment.
Bomboras Torquay is one of the local cafes fortunate enough to already have a significant outdoor dining space. Co-owner Tom McGrath said the first weekend since the restrictions gave him reason to be optimistic.
“It was pretty good on the weekend because we had such good weather. It was a good weekend to test it out and we were very happy with it.
“It’s going to mean going forward that we’re very weather-dependent. We can have up to 50 people outside, but only two lots of 10 inside. So, if it’s really bad weather, we go from being able to seat 70 people to only being able to seat 20 people.”
Torquay Commerce president and Bells Beach Brewing owner Jeff Crow said businesses without established outdoor dining areas might need some time to prepare.
“It probably would have been easier if they (the state government) announced it, then allowed a few weeks for the individual councils and liquor licensing to catch up.
“So outdoor dining will be limited to people who already have existing space. I don’t think there’s going to be anyone getting any grants to move out into carparks or onto the footpath as soon as the government’s made it sound. You still have to get the permits.”
He said hospitality venues would benefit from the new regulations to widely varying degrees.
“There’s some businesses in this town that are quite fortunate to have large outdoor areas that already have marquees and will be able to fill them up quite well with the new rule. But there’s going to be others that can’t even open or will open but only with a few people inside.
“It’s great news but we’re a few weeks away.”