The state government has assembled a taskforce charged with streamlining the approval process for outdoor eating and drinking areas, as a way to reduce the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on hospitality businesses.
The taskforce will aim to have a pilot program in place for this summer and will work on long-term changes to legislation designed to make it easier and faster for businesses to get approval to provide open-air spaces for people to dine and drink.
Marcus Wright, co-owner of the Wickham Park Hotel - well-known for its beer garden - said the move was a good idea.
He said his establishment's outdoor area had always been busy, but he had noticed an increase in people eating and drinking in the beer garden - particularly at lunchtime during the week - since the pandemic began.
"There are so many people - not just business owners but staff - still missing out and struggling, so I think it's a good thing to be able to make it smoother, make it clear, make it so everyone understands exactly what their responsibilities are - both patrons and operators," Mr Wright said.
"I also think it's good for the patrons and the customers because it's a big part of their life taken away from them when they can't go and catch up with their friends."
The taskforce will include representatives from NSW Health, Liquor and Gaming NSW, the Office of Local Government, the Office of the Small Business Commissioner, NSW Police, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Transport for NSW and the NSW Food Authority.
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the idea was to help venues better use open areas to generate business and boost job numbers.
"The pandemic has made indoor spaces less amenable to socialising so it's time we reduce barriers to spending more social time outside," Mr Dominello said.
"We're at a point where we need a cultural transformation to breathe life back into hospitality businesses and it makes sense to take advantage of NSW's great climate and superb hospitality offerings, while adapting to a world where COVID transmission remains a risk."
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