With capacity restricted due to coronavirus, people have to line up outside the Pier Hotel in Coffs Harbour on a Saturday evening. Is there room for a few more tables? Photo: Tim Jarrett
With capacity restricted due to coronavirus, people have to line up outside the Pier Hotel in Coffs Harbour on a Saturday evening. Is there room for a few more tables? Photo: Tim Jarrett

Pub trial could bring The Rocks to the Jetty

REINVIGORATING outdoor spaces is already underway in Coffs Harbour, but will a change in planning policy take things a step further by encouraging pubs to get in on the act?

With indoor venue capacities limited, the quest to make better use of space has led the NSW Government to propose simplifying processes allowing outdoor dining at small bars and pubs.

The proposal by the Department of Planning Industry and Environment to class outdoor dining at venues ‘exempt development’ in state planning policy would remove the need for planning approval.

While the change would simplify the application process, businesses would still have to apply to Councils and adhere to their policies and liquor licencing laws.

Following a trial at The Rocks in Sydney, the proposed regional rollout could give councils greater capacity to shape their outdoor dining vision.

Coffs Harbour City Council is already encouraging on-street activation and has removed application fees for businesses looking to expand onto public areas in an effort to assist businesses operate in a covid-safe way and stay viable.

Plans are afoot to help deal with the Christmas holiday surge in Sawtell by encouraging more outdoor dining.
Plans are afoot to help deal with the Christmas holiday surge in Sawtell by encouraging more outdoor dining.

While the specifics of the trial were yet to be finalised Council’s industry and destination development section leader Fiona Barden said the initiative is in line with what Council is already doing.

Though she did stress any initiatives would have to adhere to liquor licensing regulations.

“As covid restrictions continue (simplifying the process) makes a lot of sense,” she said.
“We have done a lot over the period of the pandemic to help food businesses continue to serve people.

Just this week a new initiative to activate parts of Woolgoolga was announced, with The Sunset Room and Sea Salt given the go ahead to expand alfresco dining areas on Market St.

Ms Barden says there is a number of busineses already in negotiations with Council with regards to a plan of action during the Christmas holiday period.

In Sawtell, some businesses were looking at creating outdoor food preparation areas which could help ensure some customers are not turned away due to patron-limits.

Danielle Wallace, owner of Sunset Room Woolgoolga which will be expanding as part of a street activation initiative.
Danielle Wallace, owner of Sunset Room Woolgoolga which will be expanding as part of a street activation initiative.

The moves by DPIE are welcomed by Business NSW regional manager Kellon Beard who said the hospitality industry had “suffered greatly” from the impacts of COVID-19 and the bushfires.

“Under the current restrictions the number of people they can serve indoors is limited, having the ability to set up in outdoor areas, will be a real bonus to the hospitality industry and add to the vibrancy of the town,” Mr Beard said.

“In our recent Back on Track report we called for the cutting of unnecessary read tape across all levels of Government. So this type of action is welcomed and we would call on all local Councils to get behind it.

“Having vibrant public spaces is something that adds to the appeal of regional destinations, and what we need at the moment is more capacity in our local restaurants and bars, this proposed change to the planning rules will facilitate this.”

To have your say on DPIE’s Statewaide NSW Outdoor dining trial visit www.planning.nsw.gov.au/statewideoutdoordining.



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