FAQs: Coronavirus support for outdoor hospitality

Outdoor dining will eventually resume under Victoria’s roadmap to reopening its economy.
Outdoor dining will eventually resume under Victoria’s roadmap to reopening its economy.

Melbourne’s restaurants and bars will take to the streets under a new scheme to revive the city’s hospitality sector in the wake of coronavirus.

The Victorian Government on Monday announced major funding in conjunction with the City of Melbourne to help Melbourne CBD venues move their facilities outdoors in a bid to bring people back to the city.

The government also committed significant funding to help suburban hospitality venues re-open under outdoor dining conditions, as well as providing training, advertising and other support as businesses move their operations outdoors.

How much funding can hospitality businesses access and what can it be used for?

City businesses

The $100 million Melbourne City Recovery fund comprises $30 million for small to medium sized businesses to adapt their operations to be COVID Safe and comply with outdoor dining requirements, $30 million for COVID-safe events and cultural activities to bring people back to the city, and $40 million on infrastructure make the city more safe, accessible and sustainable.

The $30 million for hospitality businesses will be used for purchasing outdoor chairs, tables, plastic screens, umbrellas and other equipment required for outdoor hospitality to re-configure spaces to ensure they comply with COVID regulations, and convert areas such as rooftops and courtyards for outdoor use.

Suburban businesses

A further $87.5 million outdoor hospitality support package is being made available to hospitality businesses outside of Melbourne’s CBD.

Under the scheme, $58 million will go to businesses in the form of $5000 grants to pay for outdoor dining equipment such as umbrellas, outdoor furniture and screens to provided barriers between tables and seating areas.

The grants will be available to and licensed and unlicensed businesses, restaurants, takeaway food businesses, pubs, bars and clubs that have a payroll of less than $3 million.

The Victorian Government estimates about 11,000 businesses will be eligible for the funding.

The remaining $30 million is for local councils (up to $500,000 for metropolitan councils and $250,000 for regional cities/councils) is to be used to help them implement processes and permit enforcement to support expanded outdoor hospitality.

Outdoor spaces in Melbourne’s CBD will be reclaimed for dining.

How will outdoor dining work?

While the finer details of how outdoor dining will be implemented are yet to be revealed, they are expected to mimic similar schemes already in place and operating successfully in New York and London.

In those cities, businesses have moved their dining outside onto roads and footpaths, with councils engaging new planning and licensing rules in order to allow for eating and drinking outside.

Under New York’s ‘Open Restaurants’ initiative, around 9500 restaurants and cafes have been able to continue operating under COVID-19 restrictions.

The scheme bans indoor dining but permits food service on footpaths and lanes. In some cases entire streets have been turned into open-air bars, cafes and restaurants.

How many patrons/spaces can a restaurant have for outdoor dining?

Under the Victorian Government’s roadmap to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, hospitality venues can open for outdoor dining once the state reaches the third stage of reopening, which is set down for October 26 if Victoria has reached an average daily case rate of fewer than five cases statewide over the previous 14 days, and there have been fewer than five cases with an unknown source statewide in the last 14 days.

At this point, restaurants will be able to resume outdoor dining for up to 20 people.

On Tuesday, the government announced regional Victoria would move to the next stage of reopening from midnight on Wednesday, with hospitality businesses now able to serve patrons outside, with a cap of 50 seated patrons per venue.

Further details about spacing and the number of patrons per outdoor area are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.