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 supports food, beverage, entertainment, arts and cultural businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and enjoy a COVID Safe summer 2021.

The initiatives rolled out include:

  • rebates of up to $5,000 for hospitality businesses to establish or expand their alfresco settings. For more information and to register visit Service NSW
  • temporary alfresco measures for outdoor dining on public or private land (for example bowling greens and carparks), with the landowner’s consent
  • Festival of Place – a series of events in and around the CBD such as Long Summer Nights Program at The Rocks, Darling Harbour and The Domain, Streets as Shared Spaces and Open Streets Program 
  • permanent outdoor dining as exempt development for pubs and small bars state-wide. This is now active and follows the successful trial that started last year.

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, will be eligible for a fast-tracked permanent liquor licence approval for outdoor dining. More information about the process will be made available soon.

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 18 April 2022. 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 18 April 2022, 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 L&GNSW’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 of liquor licence boundary, visit Liquor & Gaming NSW’s website

Funding available

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

These funding programs support the Premier’s 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 2021. The Government intends making legislative changes to allow these approvals to be extended beyond this time.

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, public space 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.
  • 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, public space 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 public 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 Alfresco Restart package includes rebates of up to $5,000 for 5,000 hospitality businesses to use towards creating or expanding their outdoor dining spaces. For eligibility requirements and to register, visit the Service NSW website.

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.

Examples of outdoor dining
Council or area name More details Contact
City of Sydney City of Sydney website contact
Coogee Randwick City Council website email
Darling Harbour Darling Harbour website email
The Rocks The Rocks website email


Experiences of participating areas and councils

“In The Rocks, where many of the buildings have a constrained footprint, Alfresco Dining allowed for COVID safe dining for many local food and beverage businesses.

As a result, both The Rocks and Darling Harbour saw an increase in Sydneysider visitation as local visitors rediscovered this part of the city. Alfresco dining at The Rocks also became the prototype for outdoor dining in other NSW areas.”

Anita Mitchell, Chief Executive, Placemaking NSW (Placemaking NSW brings together Sydney Olympic Park, The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, which are part of the NSW Government.)

“Randwick Council has widened footpaths on Coogee Bay Road, by making traffic one-way heading west, to provide approved restaurants and cafes with space for outdoor dining. All of the NSW Government agencies involved in the streamlined process made it easy for us to join the trial and pass the benefits onto our businesses and community.”

Katie Anderson, Manager Cultural Events and Venues, Randwick City Council

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

Outdoor dining in The Rocks
Councils can learn more below or contact the Office of Local Government.
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