As Melbourne re-emerges from its snap lockdown businesses are hoping to capitalise on relaxed outdoor dining laws to claw back the losses made over the past 12 months.
The City of Melbourne has extended its outdoor dining program until mid-2021 to allow businesses more flexibility and certainty as they struggle to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions.
Kepler Analytics foot traffic data from last week in Victoria showed an almost 60 per cent drop in people going inside stores when compared to this time last year, but interestingly a 28 per cent increase in sales conversions.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the three-month extension would allow outdoor dining spaces, including "parklets" to operate until the end of June.
Capp said the $2.2 million extension was part of the $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund in partnership with the Victorian Government, bringing the total investment in outdoor dining infrastructure and laneway closures to $7.7 million.
According to a City of Melbourne survey the outdoor dining parklets had helped more than 80 per cent of businesses to reopen and 76 per cent to maintain their seating capacity. But with an extension into a cold Melbourne winter, it is unclear whether Melbournians will continue to support the outdoor dining program.
“The latest lockdown has already had a major impact on our business community—particularly the hospitality industry—so we’re doing everything we can to provide certainty for businesses once we emerge from lockdown,” Capp said.
Capp said the outdoor dining program had stimulated the economy with diners coming from near and far for a slice of the New York style outdoor dining experience.
“Businesses can have confidence that outdoor dining will continue in the City of Melbourne until winter. We’re looking into additional features to support outdoor dining during the cooler months such as weather protection. When we re-open, our restaurants, cafes and retail stores will need our support more than ever.”
Kepler’s foot traffic report highlighted the impact of the snap lockdowns in both Victoria and Western Australia, but in spite of the “traffic volatility” good sales figures were reported.