Alfresco and outdoor dining

It's now easier for councils and businesses to offer outdoor dining

Outdoor dining in The Rocks

Food and beverage businesses have greater ability to expand their footprint to new outdoor space giving customers across the state more opportunities to dine outdoors.

The Alfresco Restart Package, announced late last year, supports food, beverage, entertainment, arts and cultural businesses as part of NSW COVID-19 economic recovery.

The initiatives rolled out include:

  • rebates of up to $5,000 for hospitality businesses to establish or expand their alfresco settings
  • temporary alfresco measures for outdoor dining on public or private land (for example bowling greens and carparks), with the landowner’s consent
  • the Festival of Place in Your Streets – events, activations and placemaking across the State 
  • permanent outdoor dining as exempt development for pubs and small bars state-wide. This is now active and follows the successful trial that started in 2020.

NSW Government processes now ongoing

In 2020, we made changes as part of the Alfresco Dining Trial to streamline the approval process for licensed venues applying for outdoor dining.

These changes supported food, beverage, entertainment, arts and cultural businesses to expand their outdoor dining onto footpaths and public spaces.

The trial introduced measures to fast-track the outdoor dining approval process for a licensed premise wanting to change their licensed boundary to include new outdoor space. These changes included:

  • a fast-track approval process for premises wanting to temporarily change their liquor licence boundary to include new outdoor space. Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) approved applications within three days and application fees were waived.
  • the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) was amended so that pubs and small bars could use exempt development for their outdoor dining areas. This is consistent with existing arrangements in place for cafes and restaurants.
  • improvements to the NSW Planning portal so that councils could use the service to further streamline the approval process. Councils could also choose to use their own application systems, if preferred.

The NSW Government has made these measures permanent.

Venues that have been operating with a temporary liquor licence boundary change, for a period deemed appropriate by L&GNSW, may be eligible for a fast-tracked permanent liquor licence approval for outdoor dining. More information about the fast-track permanent boundary change process can be found on Liquor and Gaming NSW’s website.

New outdoor dining changes 

In addition to the trial measures becoming permanent, we are now also supporting temporary approvals on land other than footpaths and public spaces to be used in a similar way until 31 December 2023. For example, a venue’s car space or a bowling club’s green.

  • the NSW Government has amended the Codes SEPP to allow food and drink premises to offer additional outdoor dining areas as exempt development on public and private land, and land associated with a registered club. It will apply to all local government areas until 31 December 2023, after this point the measures will cease to operate. More information about these changes can be found on DPE’s website.
  • because these new types of outdoor dining approvals may not require council approval, businesses wanting to take advantage of these changes will need to come directly to L&GNSW. More information about how to apply can be found on Liquor and Gaming NSW’s website.

How to participate

Information for councils

We encourage councils to get involved and support local businesses to expand outdoor dining by:

  • identifying areas within their towns and cities such as central business districts and high streets where outdoor dining could occur or expand
  • streamlining council's outdoor dining area approval processes where possible.

The Office of Local Government has updated guidelines to support councils to increase outdoor dining opportunities in their local communities.

Councils can contact the Office of Local Government for support and advice on how to get involved.

Application processing  

For businesses seeking approval from council for outdoor dining, contact your local council for more information.

For more information about how to apply for the fast-track temporary change and permanent liquor licence boundary changes, visit Liquor & Gaming NSW’s website

Funding available

The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) is offering funding for councils through:

  • the Summer Night Fund program for councils to provide free, small-scale events and activations, such as creative lighting, murals or play areas
  • the Streets as Shared Spaces program, for councils to test permanent changes that strengthen the amenity, accessibility and economic vitality of a high street and surrounding area.  

These funding programs support the Government Priority to increase walkable access to quality open, green and public space in urban areas and are complementary to Alfresco outdoor dining initiatives.

Entertainment, arts, and cultural venues

Entertainment, arts and cultural venues that offer food and alcohol can also apply to use public space for outdoor dining. This means venues such as theatres can expand outdoor dining onto public areas such as footways, open space and roads.

Subject to council approval, these venues can apply for a temporary change of the liquor licence boundary up until December 2022.

Get involved

Contact the Office of Local Government to learn more.

Information for businesses

Streamlined NSW Government processes make it easier for councils and Liquor and Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) to approve outdoor dining for existing food and beverage businesses such as small bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Businesses interested in streamlined outdoor dining approvals for footpaths and roads should first contact their council to ask about applying for outdoor dining.

For outdoor dining on other types of land, such as parks, carparks and bowling greens, businesses should apply directly via Liquor & Gaming NSW.

The Service NSW business concierge service can provide further information on how to apply for outdoor dining.

When applying for outdoor dining in general, keep in mind the following:

  • you must follow the latest Public Health Orders. Guidelines, information and support can be found on the NSW Government’s dedicated webpage
  • at any time, Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) may request you update your Plan of Management to include how you will manage the outdoor area
  • venues without a liquor licence or where licence boundary changes aren’t appropriate might be able to use a pop-up liquor licence. Venues and councils can contact L&GNSW for more about this licence type
  • venues offering outdoor dining need to comply with their usual liquor licence conditions, as well as any specific conditions that apply to the outdoor area. The same regulatory obligations also apply. More information about running a COVID Safe outdoor dining area is on the NSW Government website.

In addition, if your application involves outdoor dining on footpaths and roadways, keep in mind the following:

  • Each council may have a different approach to the streamlined process to suit their community and approval process. Some may use ePlanning while others may use their own systems.
  • You need to identify an appropriate space next to the venue where outdoor dining could be suitable. Councils may have an outdoor dining policy or guidelines that will help.
  • Gather the information needed for the outdoor dining application, for example, the size of the outdoor area, customer capacity and the type of furniture to be used. Councils will be able to provide more information on what is required.

The NSW Small Business Commissioner has developed a guide for business containing useful and practical tips on how to set up an outdoor dining area.

Other outdoor dining programs

The Alfresco Restart initiative is separate to the NSW Small Business Commission / Service NSW Outdoor Dining Program, which streamlines the application process for permanent outdoor dining for businesses in six participating council areas.

Councils interested in learning more can contact the Office of Local Government.

Outdoor dining in The Rocks

Get involved

Councils can learn more below or contact the Office of Local Government.
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