Queanbeyan council’s plan to promote outdoor dining by scrapping fees on Crawford Street

Ab Guleria hopes other restaurant owners can join his cafe outside on Crawford Street. Photo: James Hall
Ab Guleria hopes other restaurant owners can join his cafe outside on Crawford Street. Photo: James Hall

Council will scrap annual fees for outdoor dining on Crawford Street in a bid to bring the city’s CBD to life.

Currently, venues pay an administration fee of $60 and are charged $17 a year for each square metre they occupy outside.

From July 1, the administration fee will become $62 but the yearly fee will be removed.

Since the fees were introduced in 2013 after Crawford Street was redeveloped, council had charged five businesses about $15,600.

The street’s lifestyle precinct was built hoping to promote outdoor dining.

In the initial years, council tried to encourage businesses to follow suit with a discount but it then increased after two years.

A council spokesman said the decision to scrap the fee was made on the back of the NSW government’s easy to do business program, which was aimed at encouraging start-up cafes, restaurants and small bars.

“While the fee for outdoor dining was quite low, it may have been seen as restrictive,” the spokesman said.

“Council should be doing everything possible to encourage outdoor dining and sees it as a key element to enhance the vibrancy in our city centre.”

The fee scrap was welcome news to the owners of the street’s busiest cafes, Ciao Cafe and Cakes and Fourth Seed, Ab Guleria and Tim Zhang respectively.

The street is largely bare with most of their neighbours limiting dining to inside.

But Mr Guleria said he hoped more would open outside and help change the atmosphere.

“I've spoken to a couple of the other businesses who haven't put their tables and chairs out, and they said that [the fee] was one of the reasons,” he said.

“If they [council] would have done that from the beginning, by now I think it would have been what it should have been.”

Owner of the Canton Chinese Restaurant Vanessa Seetoh said her business lost money while the council built the footpath over an 18 month period.

Empty store fronts and empty sidewalks in Queanbeyan's centre. Photo: James Hall.

Empty store fronts and empty sidewalks in Queanbeyan's centre. Photo: James Hall.

The council’s transformation strategy wants to modernise hospitality in Queanbeyan and create a bustling hospitality precinct, but Mrs Seetoh said that’s what was promised last time.

“But as you can see, it's dead,” she said. “There's no foot traffic.”

She said there were 22 empty shopfronts on Crawford and Monaro streets, which “was not good for anyone”.

Mrs Seetoh said she would prefer a regular market to bring people to the street and for more boutique style shops.

“It's beautiful outside but we need to attract people to come and shop in Queanbeyan.”