Local cafe owners and restaurateurs are celebrating changes made at last night’s council meeting which will make it easier for them to establish outdoor dining.
Rocks on Rosalind co-owner Finn Vedelsby was among those to applaud the regulatory changes, which will also see the introduction of temporary permits to allow the hospitality industry to cash-in on major events and festivals.
“We would love to have outdoor dining and a street presence on View Street – it would be wonderful,” Mr Vedelsby said.
“Instead of looking like a 150-year-old, beautiful financial institution, our restaurant would look like a 150-year-old financial institution which has been transformed into a contemporary dining place.
“Particularly when you have people from out of town come to the Marilyn Monroe exhibition, or some of the other great shows at our theatres and galleries, it would give us an opportunity to attract more customers and add a different demographic to our already fantastic clientele.”
For Mr Vedelsby, 39, and his business partner Ben Massey, 30, the changes mean they will now be able to afford an ambition they’ve nurtured since setting up their restaurant two years ago.
“The cost of complying with council regulations is totally prohibitive at the moment,” he said yesterday.
“It’s not just a case of setting up barriers and paying a couple of hundred bucks for some chairs – we have to pay for blue stone pavement which can cost $500 a square metre.
“You’re talking tens of thousands of dollars… we’re just two young blokes with our first business, we simply could not afford that.”
The City of Greater Bendigo estimates the average cost of creating an on-footpath outdoor dining area is between $8000 and $10,000 – but concedes some sites might have to fork out as much as $18,000.
Councillor Lisa Ruffell, who championed the changes, told her council colleagues last night that she was aware of some cases in which business paid up to $24,000 to comply with the regulations.
“This [proposal] came about by quite a few small businesses requesting to speak [to council] about how hard it is to get outdoor seating for their business,” Cr Ruffell said.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses in Benigo and it gives small businesses a chance to enhance and make us a more vibrant city.”
Last night’s changes won’t reduce the final price of complying with regulations but instead allow businesses to pay it off in installments, which council says amounts to a short term, interest free loan.
The business will still pay half of the cost before it can begin paving, but the remaining 50 per cent can be paid off in quarterly installments.
“It will still be a struggle for us but we would be able to afford outdoor dining,” Mr Vedelsby said.
“It’s been a long road for us – we’ve been saving for two years and we still don’t have enough money, but if these changes go ahead we’d be able to move forward with outdoor dining straight away.
“And we’ll smash it, Rocks on Rosalind will do this really well.”
Speaking to the Bendigo Advertiser before the council meeting, Bendigo Business Council chief executive Leah Sertori said the current regulation around outdoor dining needed reform.
“It is a huge investment for people, tens of thousands of dollars to comply with regulation,” she said.
“We would welcome council’s support for pop-up, on-street dining and we recognise the tremendous opportunity for local hospitality businesses to leverage off large exhibitions like Marilyn and we welcome council’s flexibility in embracing the notion of pop-up on dining permits,"Bendigo Business Council chief executive Leah Sertori