Glenferrie Goes Alfresco
Melbourne emerged from Stage 4 lockdown on 28 October, having two days earlier recorded zero new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since 9 June 2020. After almost four months in a second lockdown, Glenferrie’s local restaurants, pubs, and cafes were able to welcome the community back once again with seated dining.
Coming out of lockdown, venues were initially limited to 20 indoor and 50 outdoor patrons with distancing, density, and group size restrictions. As of 23 November, limits increased to 50 indoor patrons for smaller venues (less than 200sqm), with a patron density quotient of 1 per 2sqm. Larger venues are capped at 150 indoor patrons at 1 per 4sqm. For all venues, outdoor and total capacity is limited at 300 patrons, with no limits on groups and an outdoor density quotient of 1 patron per 2sqm.
‘COVID-normal’ hospitality means a transition to a predominantly ‘alfresco’ dining business model. In early October, the City of Boroondara released an Outdoor Trading Information Pack. Council also fast-tracked applications and waived fees for outdoor trading permits until 31 March 2021, refunding fees paid from May 2019. Eligible businesses can apply for a $5,000 grant from the Victorian Government’s $58 million Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package to pay for outdoor furniture and equipment. Applications close 11 December 2020, or when funding is exhausted.
On 21 October, the Victorian Minister for Planning announced that hospitality venues could capitalise on outdoor space for dining without the usual permit requirements. This state-wide planning amendment allows cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, and function centres to use their existing outdoor spaces (private land such as courtyards) as well as public land (such as nearby parks, streets, footpaths, and carparks) without a permit, and relaxed the conditions of existing planning permits. The amendment also exempts the need for planning permits for temporary constructions, providing car-parking, and service of alcohol, subject to conditions. Matters of liquor licensing, public health and safety, and public land management must still meet local laws. The exemptions end twelve months after the State of Emergency is lifted in Victoria.
Council stated they are committed to working one-on-one with businesses who have “expressed interest in using public space, or converting the private land within their premises, for outdoor dining”. Planning permits are still necessary in some cases. Businesses are encouraged to contact council where a case manager will advise about regulations.
Glenferrie businesses expressed almost unanimous praise of council’s support of outdoor dining. George from Deep Blue Sea (734 Glenferrie Road) said that while business is suffering under restrictions, council have been “proactive, understanding, and have fast-tracked everything”.
In from Zen Japanese Restaurant (388 Burwood Road) found it "not too bad dealing with council" to build a pergola in their carpark without a permit, transforming the space into a rear outdoor dining area.
Andy from Tokyo Table (638 Glenferrie Road) received a $5,000 grant from the state government and applied to council for footpath dining in front of his restaurant and neighbouring shops. Compared to experiences with other councils, Andy feels "very happy" with the City of Boroondara. However, he does worry outdoor dining means his business is heavily reliant on the weather, feeling there is no point investing in constructing temporary shelter, only to be removed when planning exemptions end.
In late November, council converted parking in front of cafes, restaurants, and bars along Glenferrie Road and side-streets into outdoor dining ‘parklets’, astroturf platforms fenced by planter boxes and orange traffic barriers. Businesses can apply to convert their private land or propose public spaces for outdoor dining by filling out City of Boroondara’s 'Supporting your business – Outdoor Dining and Trade' application form in the Outdoor Trading Information Pack.*
*This was true at time of publication in late November. As of 1 December, the application form has been removed from the City of Boroondara website and is now unavailable. We encourage traders to call City of Boroondara at 03 9278 4444 for more information.