World news – Streets, laneways and parking spots: City’s plan to turn venues inside out


A series of streets and laneways in Sydney’s CBD will be closed to traffic while main streets will have roadside parking spaces converted into al fresco dining spots under a plan to save the city’s hospitality industry.

The City of Sydney has prepared a pilot to help bring bars and restaurants outdoors, including onto the street along thoroughfares such as Crown St in Surry Hills and Pitt St in the city, as local and state government and leaders of industry rally to resuscitate the city’s economy.

Customers having coffee in a former loading zone outside Soho Espresso on Pitt St in the Sydney CBD.Credit:Wolter Peeters

A section of Barrack Street, off George Street, would be closed, while hospitality businesses would be able to sprawl into Tankstream Way and Wilmot Lane to enable them to accommodate more customers than presently allowed under COVID-19 restrictions.

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said the city had spent the last decade installing high-quality street paving, supporting small bars and creating a pedestrian spine up George Street.

« By working with the state government to cut through remaining red tape, we will activate laneways, footpaths and high streets – realising our long-held vision of a city with boulevards of outdoor dining and live performance, » she said.

The NSW government, City of Sydney and the business community want to revive the CBD.Credit:James Brickwood

The details of the plan follow Cr Moore’s announcement at a NSW government summit on Friday that the council wanted to set up outdoor areas, such as Martin Place, for live performances and pay musicians to perform in bars and other venues.

« The bars have really suffered, they can’t afford to pay musicians, we can, » Cr Moore said.

Sydney Business Chamber executive director Katherine O’Regan said a live music program in various public spaces needed to be rolled out « to leverage our highly talented cultural and entertainment sector, many of whom are currently out of work ».

Members of Sydney’s business community told the summit workers needed to be drawn back into the city, with NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet agreeing the public sector should take the lead in encouraging the return of the workforce.

Longer retail trading hours, more flexible or free transport options, and allowing cultural institutions to stay open longer were among other ideas floated.

Hospitality businesses want to see a halving of the 4-square-metre rule for venues, with Mr Perrottet telling the audience the government was hoping to achieve that.

Phil Anastasiou, owner of Soho Espresso on Pitt St, said a council plan to reactivate the loading zone cut off by the installation of a temporary bike path by allowing tables and chairs along it would help claw back lost income.

« I’m guessing we’ll be able to sit three or four tables in front of our shops. That’s 12 to 16 seats, it will help us a lot, » he said.

The city is also proposing to pilot a streamlined, five-day approval process to make it easier for businesses to take up outdoor dining in the CBD.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said he had asked bureaucrats to slash the red tape that required Liquor and Gaming NSW to spend another month of consultation after councils had done their own.

Local Government NSW president Linda Scott cautioned against statewide measures that would override local council planning powers related to outdoor dining and the use of public spaces.

« I think it’s vital councils maintain these powers. What we wouldn’t like to see is a one-size-fits-all approach, » she told a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s response to coronavirus on Friday.

« This can lead to really disproportionate levels of anger when that space is not used cleanly, in a way that’s healthy and [needs to be done] where social distancing is maintained, the noise levels are appropriate and it can be done in the public interest. »

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