Pop-up car park dining spaces, road closures and laneway restaurants; could this be how hospitality re-opens in Ballarat under step three restrictions?
Venue owners continue to wait for more detail about what will be allowed under step three in regional Victoria, but many are beginning to think and prepare for how they can claw back business.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged at the weekend regional Victorians could expect a likely announcement on a move to step three restrictions later this week, if no new mystery cases are recorded.
The state government has not revealed detail on how hospitality may operate under step three yet, but the roadmap released last weekend says venues could open with 'predominantly outdoor seated service, group limit of 10 and density limits'.
This could be things like taking out car parks and putting in pop-ups spaces and getting people to walk instead.Michael Poulton, Committee for Ballarat
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton said it could be an 'exciting' opportunity to consider how Ballarat could activate outdoor spaces in a different way.
"We see there is hope and there is great opportunity to reimagine what city life might look like and reactivate some of the spaces around our streets," he said.
"This could be things like taking out car parks and putting in pop-ups spaces and getting people to walk instead."
Mr Poulton said this would require City of Ballarat to free up regulation, businesses sharing innovating ideas and funding from Regional Development Victoria to create the pop-up areas.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said she encouraged the state government to release details of step three restrictions as soon as possible, to provide certainty around planning for both venues and councils.
"It is really important to still remember outdoor dining will not save hospitality, in particular in areas such as Ballarat where weather can be a large factor in that," she said.
"We need to go to that next stage of having limited numbers in venues as soon as possible."
Ms Gillett said the hospitality industry needed local government to work quickly to allow businesses to use whatever outdoor space they had or to help those who have no space to find an area.
"There can be lots of fantastic and creative ideas and lots of options around what we can do to give them more space, but the most important thing is they actually talk to industry and ask industry what will work for them," she said.
"It is often difficult for people who aren't working in that industry to make those decisions."
City of Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor said council had been working on a plan to enable additional areas for outdoor dining and reviewing permits.
He said council would be working with Commerce Ballarat and business to ensure any plan benefited venues.
Australian Hotels Association president and Red Lion Hotel owner David Canny said he was advocating for the state government to allow indoor dining under step three because pubs and hotels had shown they could operate safely.
"We welcome the use of outdoor areas or the use of laneways and greater footpath dining," he said.
"We think it is a great initiative for people to be innovative in their use of outdoor spaces, but because we are so weather dependent, we need some certainty with indoor dining to enable venues to open up.
"We don't want to get to a point where there is a massive amount of money spent in infrastructure for outdoor dining to happen and all of a sudden you are allowed to open up indoors.
"Venues are doing it tough, they don't have the money to be spending on infrastructure."
Provincial Hotel owner Simon Coghlan said he did not expect many venues would open up with outdoor dining only.
"It is still cold, it is still Ballarat and it is very limited capacity to try to justify the expense of starting the operation up again," he said.
"Fundamentally there is still a lack of understanding (in government) about how our businesses are being impacted and how they actually operate."
Canberra Hotel owner Malcolm Roberts said outdoor dining could be a strength for his business as the venue has three outdoor courtyard and garden spaces that could seat up to 30 or 40 people.
He said he would try to make the most of the situation, but remained unsure how it would work with the weather.
Hydrant Food Hall owner Elise Rowe said the business had no outdoor area currently, which would make business tough if restrictions allowed outdoor dining only.
If that was the case, she said she may seek support from council to close the laneway beside the food hall to put seating outside.
"Until we really know what the limits and the boundaries are like for us, we are trying not to jump to any conclusions," she said.
"We are just doing the best we can with the information at hand and waiting for something in concrete, because it is no good having a pie in the sky approach - it creates too much confusion and much more anxiety for staff."
Regional Victoria moves to step two on Monday, allowing up to five people from two households to meet outdoors, social bubbles for single person households and the re-opening of outdoor playgrounds and outdoor pools.
In discussing a potential move to step three restrictions, Mr Andrews said: "regional Victoria has done an amazing job, it just needs to stay the course for the next few days."
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