News Coronavirus Great outdoors: Why Australia will have its fun in the sun this summer

Great outdoors: Why Australia will have its fun in the sun this summer

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Summer will be very different in Australia this year.

Both Melbourne and Sydney are set to be transformed with open-air dining areas, pop-up bars and mini parks under plans to reinvigorate hospitality industries after being ravaged by coronavirus restrictions.

The Victorian government unveiled a multimillion-dollar package to transform footpaths and streets into open-air dining areas.

The Melbourne City Recovery Fund will receive $100 million to help small to medium businesses set up outdoors, fund COVID-safe events and make physical improvements to the city streetscape.

It will be jointly funded by the state government and the City of Melbourne, whose Mayor Sally Capp last week described the CBD as “on its knees, with business hanging on by a thread”.

The government drew inspiration from New York’s Open Restaurants initiative, which has involved footpaths, laneways and streets being temporarily transformed into dining areas.

Outdoor dining in New York City during the pandemic. Photo: AAP

“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, kerbside parking … and turned it into pop-up cafes, restaurants, bars,” Mr Andrews said.

“That is what we will do. We will change the way the city operates and the suburbs and regional cities.”

The premier said the risk of coronavirus infection was low at restaurants.

“We are often at our greatest risk when we’re at a mate’s place having dinner because there is no time limit, there is no waiter making sure we keep our distance, there is not necessarily all the kind of infection control, cleaning tables, cleaning common areas,” he said.

Jobs Minister Martin Pakula said the changes would “utterly transform the city, and not just for this summer”.

“It will create a new al fresco environment for CBD dining which will, I suspect, be enjoyed for many summers hence,” he said.

Businesses outside the Melbourne CBD with a payroll under $3 million can apply for grants of up to $5000 to pay for equipment such as umbrellas, outdoor furniture and perspex screens.

The reimagined summer in Melbourne will primarily be outdoors. Photo: AAP

Meanwhile, the NSW government launched a strategy to look at ways to streamline the process of getting approvals for pop-up bars and events.

They will also work with councils and industry to consider what businesses could be encouraged to extend hours.

The government will continue relaxing existing restrictions to allow food trucks and other pop-ups to operate.

Late-night road commuter hubs with specific pick up and drop-off locations will also be considered.

Pavements and roadside parking spaces could be converted into pedestrian zones for outdoor dining, small art installations and mini parks under a pilot program in parts of Sydney.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the plan would set up the state for a dynamic recovery after COVID-19.

“There is no denying Sydney is one of the best cities in the world, but we need to continue to do everything we can to ensure the jewel in our crown continues to shine both day and night,” Mr Perrottet said in a statement on Monday.