Last week I wrote about al fresco dining, and this week (on 14 September 2020), the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announced a financial stimulus package to permit more outdoor dining and provide funds to buy outdoor furniture and convert rooftops and courtyards for al fresco dining in Melbourne.
“If you look at places like New York, they have been able to get their hospitality sector back to something approaching normal, faster than what would otherwise have been the case because they have used the footpath and kerbside parking and taken public space and turned it into pop-up cafés, restaurants, bars,” said Mr Andrews. “That is what we will do. We will change the way the city operates and the suburbs and regional cities.”
This is, of course, great news. Anything that will help kickstart the ailing hospitality industry is very welcome. Modelled on New York’s Open Restaurants program, this new outdoor dining policy is designed to stimulate the hospitality sector. Kerbside dining, footpath cafés, pop-up restaurants in gardens and public spaces will be encouraged with grants and fast-tracked changes to regulations. In New York, where indoor dining is banned, over 9500 venues have been transformed into open-air bars, cafés and restaurants.
Premier Daniel Andrews is hoping this initiative will change the way the city of Melbourne operates and become a popular lasting feature. He has indicated that public spaces, parks and gardens will be made available and some streets and laneways may be closed to traffic to permit outdoor dining and drinking.
However, whilst the Premier has also just announced the relaxation of some restrictions in regional Victoria to take effect this week, the city-focused al fresco package does not come into effect until at least 26 October and is subject to COVID outbreaks coming under control. That’s almost six weeks away and some people say it is too little, too late. Industry groups are concerned – especially with the changes to JobKeeper this month – that many businesses will not survive under the current timeline and restrictions. I guess we will just have to wait a little longer and hope most survive.
Meanwhile, local tourism in other areas is taking off. People are eager to get out and socialise again. Those not in full lockdown, as in Victoria, are getting out and exploring the regions closer to home. Places like the Hunter Valley in NSW and the Scenic Rim in SE Queensland are reporting good tourist numbers, with many places booked out on weekends.
Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, forecast a couple of months ago that there will be a redistribution of where people will travel, away from the cities to local communities. He says that people cannot or don’t want to get on planes, they don’t want to go to crowded cities, they don’t want to cross borders, but “what they are willing to do is get in a car and drive a couple of hundred miles to a small community” and support local tourism.
No doubt, regional tourism will see a continued boom as people choose a safer and more convenient form of travel closer to home. This will help stimulate the local economies with plenty of small towns, rural eateries and attractions worth seeking out.
But remember, even in the bush, social distancing still applies. And, of course, if you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home and seek medical advice.
Together we can all stay safe and dine another day.
By Jeremy Ryland
15 September 2020
Sources: Apple News Feed, ABC News.
Photo by Zac Porter on Unsplash