Opening up Sydney's café culture

Our City is renowned worldwide for excellent cafés and restaurants. Outdoor dining has grown to become an important feature of city living.

On Monday night I asked the City's CEO to review our footway dining policy and halve the current footway dining licence fees for all non-CBD licences and CBD laneways.

We are committed to encouraging well-managed, outdoor dining that improves residential amenity, particularly in our villages where there is less demand for footway space.

For the last year or so, the City has been working closely with residents, businesses, visitors, Government agencies, relevant organisations and the Police to find out what kind of late night city people want.

Thousands of people told us that they want better-integrated late night transport, more diversity at night for all age groups, quality food, creative and beautiful lighting, moves to address the aggressive drinking culture and less red tape.

There was strong demand for more opportunities for quality restaurants and cafés to be open late at night. This included opportunities for outdoor dining, which at night help make a street safer by providing passive surveillance.

As the popularity of outdoor dining grows, the City has had to work hard to balance the sometimes competing interests of residents, patrons and businesses.

The current fees were adopted in June 2012 and this proposal will need to be publicly exhibited for 28 days to allow the community to comment.

This initiative is proposed for an 18 month period, from 1 January 2013 to 30 June 2014.

During this period, the City can measure the success of the incentive, understand any resourcing impacts and investigate a reasonable market licencing fee that might be applied to all non-CBD zones and CBD laneways (Zone 7).

It's estimated that the reduced fees will impact the City's income budget by $340,000 for the remainder of the 2012/13 year and up to $680,000 for the full 2013/14 financial year.

I am recommending that staff re-assess the City's entire policy on outdoor dining including regulation, assessment and approval to ensure responsible operators have viable opportunities to offer quality outdoor dining experiences.

The City is committed to supporting both new and existing businesses. Our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy specifically recognises the importance of the 20,000-plus small and medium sized businesses to Sydney's economy, diversity and energy.

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