Council to reintroduce dining fees, except in Docklands
The City of Melbourne is expected to 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.
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 were expected to support a recommendation from management at its meeting on September 27, which would 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.
Docklands Chamber of Commerce executive officer Shane Wylie said it was very supportive of any concessions allocated to Docklands traders during what continued to be a challenging time for the precinct.
“It [waiving outdoor dining fees] is an acknowledgement that Docklands was and is continuing to be hit harder than any other location by COVID and all the associated problems,” Mr Wylie said.
“Hopefully we have a brilliant summer on the way and outdoor dining makes an impact for all of our traders who are still struggling.”
The council says busker permit fees would also be frozen until June 30, 2023 “to keep the city streets humming with local talent”.
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.
With the “Extended Outdoor Dining Program”, funded through the $200 million Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund – a joint partnership between the council and state government – having sustained the city’s “bounce back”, Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the staged reintroduction of fees were a reflection of steady increases in foot traffic since June 2021.
“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.” •