IT is hoped that new, temporary dining pods on Sturt and Armstrong streets could bring as much as $1.3 million to the Ballarat economy.
But there are concerns that the loss of 14 car parking spaces in the CBD, particularly in the already challenged Armstrong Street precinct, could have a detrimental effect on retail and takeaway businesses.
The City of Ballarat and the state government hope that the outdoor, covered pods - which will be trialled until Easter - will offer Ballarat diners a different eating experience. They have been funded through a $500,000 grant given to the City of Ballarat by the state government in order to enhance businesses after COVID-19.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said she had received a number of concerns that the loss of seven car parking spaces in the Armstrong Street precinct was a concern.
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"The businesses have expressed real concerns about the reduction in parks in Armstrong Street in a time they are trying to recover from the most difficult year they have faced," she said.
"We are planning to keep having conversations to see if we can find a solution to assist all the business in Armstrong Street, in particular the takeaway and retailers have concerns about people getting into those businesses.
"Business has lost a lot of parking in Mair Street in last 12 months, so we need to be mindful of all industry sectors.
"The activity out on the street is great, the venues have reasonable capacity inside, we need to make sure everyone from hospitality to retail to professional services is taken care of."
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But while there are concerns about Armstrong Street, Sturt Street businesses are delighted to be able to offer a new alternative.
Owner of Higher Society Rhys Jeffrey said the boxes had generated huge conversation with customers.
"It's caught the eye of Ballarat and the loss of car parks has certainly been brought up," he said.
"But I've just been saying 'where can you park outside your favourite cafe?' We've got parking down Dawson Street, we've got a free multi-level car park less than a minute's walk away and it's the perfect time to be out and about, come out and stretch your legs."
A number of dining businesses have worked with the City of Ballarat in gaining access to the new pods, with the Sturt Street businesses Higher Society, Europa and L'espresso each having access to dining opportunities.
Mayor Daniel Moloney said it was a unique opportunity to try something new.
"Outdoor dining isn't a new thing, but outdoor dining in shelter away from Ballarat's elements such as wind or rain is, it's an exciting opportunity for businesses," he said.
"We're delighted the state government provided this opportunity through COVID relief which saw us go out to businesses. This, I think, might change Ballarat's perception of how we dine outdoors.
"We really want people to get behind it and encourage them to experience it."
Wendouree MP Juliana Addison said she hoped people would embrace the idea.
"The pandemic has had an enormous impact on Ballarat's hospitality venues and these dining hubs are an innovative way that we can directly support local businesses to maximise their patronage while under COVID-normal restrictions," she said.
The hubs will remain in place until the end of the daylight-saving period in April and will be in operation during events such as the Cycling Road Nationals and the Begonia Festival.
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