More than 40 Ballarat hospitality businesses have received support to install outdoor dining infrastructure to increase their capacity as they continue to recover from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Ballarat received a $500,000 grant from the state government's outdoor dining and entertainment package for two funding programs, with successful businesses able to install umbrella sockets and glass wind barriers outside their venues.
Council hopes the infrastructure will allow businesses to expand their outdoor footprint while also making for a better dining experience for customers.
In discussions with council, businesses identified Ballarat's often unpredictable weather as a greater issue than a lack of space.
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Of the 71 applications that were assessed for 'maximum community and economic benefit', 42 were successful.
Sturt Street business Homeground Cafe and Bakery will be receiving new glass wind barriers through the program, enabling it to better utilise its large footpath dining area.
Owner Brendan Hanrahan said weather played a large role in every Ballarat hospitality business' ability to trade outdoors, but lockdowns had a significantly worse impact.
"Like any eat-in business, it's certainly very, very helpful to have outdoor dining. It just lets everyone know that you're open and trading and people sitting outside generates more people," he said.
"If you're only allowed certain numbers per square metre inside and outside, if the weather's inclement and you haven't got outside dining, you're missing out on numbers.
"With the restrictions, the weather plays a minimal factor in relation to the lockdown and restrictions only being takeaway and there being no corporate catering for us at the moment."
The outdoor dining infrastructure could be especially welcome along Armstrong Street, which is a vibrant restaurant strip outside of lockdowns.
Griffin Burger supervisor Caity Glare said more people would want to sit outside as the weather improves, making the infrastructure all the more important.
"The more that you have out there and like the brighter and nicer it's looking, the more people are going to want to eat out and I think that's always a good thing, especially with everything opening back up," she said.
"We're doing takeaway and everything at the moment which is great but once everything opens up, we're expected to be pretty busy so having more space or more opportunity to dine out is definitely always a positive."
City of Ballarat councillor Tracey Hargreaves, who is a small business owner and Commerce Ballarat board member, said Ballarat could learn from the way colder European cities utilise their outdoor dining spaces.
"Being able to trade and having people actually want to sit outside and be comfortable outside, it could double the capacity of some places and just have that extra factor of safety when and if needed in future as we go forward through COVID," she said.
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