Car parks could be converted into dining areas in a package Wellington City Council is creating to support the hospitality sector's response to COVID-19.
The package includes free short-term pavement leases, special license fees held to reschedule a cancelled event, and potentially opening outdoor areas such as car parks and wide footpaths to accommodate outdoor dining.
Mayor Andy Foster said COVID-19 restrictions have severely impacted the hospitality sector, adding another layer of complexity to operating businesses.
Thus, he said it is imperative flexibility is created through innovative ideas to ease the pressure.
The council will process short-term lease applications free of charge so businesses can expand their dining area onto the footpath outside their establishment.
Businesses granted a special alcohol license for a one-off event which was cancelled due to COVID, will have the fee held by the council for when the event is rescheduled.
Hospitality New Zealand president Jeremy Smith said he appreciated the plan and encouraged Wellington bar and restaurant owners to contact the council with their ideas for using their spaces.
Public health group manager Helen Jones said the council would provide advice on how to extend space within current health and safety guidelines. She said both large and small establishments across the city know their surroundings and how best to optimise their spaces and ask them to come forward with their ideas.
A project manager has been appointed to specifically work with hospitality businesses to provide advice and guidance.
Last year, Liverpool City Council created a scheme that included closing a popular restaurant destination (Bold Street) to traffic across the summer, filling the area with street furniture and parklets instead, enabling restaurants and cafes to serve customers despite indoor seating restrictions. The project also had a fund for businesses to apply if they needed help purchasing outdoor furniture (read more here).
Why aren't more regional councils stepping up to the plate with practical ideas and proposals? The industry has clearly stated what they need, but continually get left wanting.
And while extended outdoor dining licenses are a good start from Auckland Council, how does that help businesses with little or no outdoor seating area?
Summer days are here, Kiwis want to support local, its time to get practical about how we can give hospitality a fighting chance.