Council is reviewing its Outdoor Dining and Trading Policy.
Council made allowances for cafes and restaurants to offer more options for outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic when there were restrictions on indoor occupancy. Some local businesses took advantage of Council and state government grants to develop their outdoor dining areas.
Outdoor dining and trading typically includes elements such as tables, chairs, barrier screens, umbrellas, A-frame signage, display stands and planter boxes on Council owned and managed roads, footpaths and land. However, furniture and signage on footpaths creates obstacles for pedestrian traffic and can cause particular problems for people with impaired mobility and people in wheelchairs.
Mayor, Cr Brian Hood, said that outdoor dining and trading plays a vital role in fostering a strong local economy and creating welcoming places for our community and visitors.
“We want to support our towns and communities to thrive, but we also need to ensure that these activities are done safely in our shared public spaces. This means balancing the needs and expectations our local businesses, community and visitors, and ensuring that our approach is fair and equitable,” said Cr Hood.
Permits for outdoor dining and trading attract a small fee but with the popularity of outdoor dining and outdoor merchandise displays in major towns, they could be a potential source of revenue for Council. Essentially, businesses are using Council-owned land to increase their service space. For example, a charge of $5 per outdoor seat per week (about the same as one cup of coffee) would raise $5000 per year from a restaurant with 20 outdoor seats. Across the Shire, the income would be substantial. This income would be outside the rate cap and could be used to relieve pressure on rate payers or to improve amenity in commercial outdoor areas.
Businesses, visitors and the local community are encouraged to have a say by completing a short survey at https://participate.hepburn.vic.gov.au/outdoor-trading. If support is needed to complete the survey, Council will have printed copies of the survey at its libraries and hubs.
The survey closes at 12 noon on Friday 14 April.