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City's al fresco dining incentive fails to coax restaurants outdoors

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The Adelaide City Council has forfeited $200,000 in revenue by offering free permits to encourage outdoor dining over the past six months – but more businesses applied for new permits when they had to pay for it, a new report has revealed.

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A staff report presented to a council committee last night showed the council has received 24 applications for outdoor dining permits since the 12-month free outdoor dining permit trial began mid-last year.

The report also revealed 35 applications were made during the same period the previous year – when the council charged businesses a $350 application fee, plus a $34-39 fee per square metre, for the privilege.

Area councillor Anne Moran told InDaily: “The incentive hasn’t worked – the figures speak for themselves.”

Moran – who voted against the free permit trial – said no business owner had ever complained to her that the fees were prohibitive.

However, she said other factors aside from cost may prevent or encourage businesses to set up outdoor dining, and it was possible that “every business that can do outdoor dining does (already)”.

Central ward councillor Houssam Abiad, who championed trial, said it needed “time to propagate”.

“The uptake of 24 is great [… and] this is still very new.”

He said that while the council had waived $200,000 in potential revenue, the possible economic boost from the extra outdoor dining had not yet been calculated.

He also argued that businesses with existing outdoor dining permits had to pay higher rent to landlords, which translated into higher council rates.

“We’re double-dipping as a council if we charge [both rates and outdoor dining fees]” he said.

He added that businesses in the CBD and North Adelaide paid higher council rates than residents did and received fewer services – namely they are not provided with council waste bins.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin told InDaily that rather than waiving fees it may be more effective to provide businesses with direct financial incentives – using revenue from paid permits – to transition from permanent outdoor dining furniture to removable seats and tables.

Deputy Lord Mayor Megan Hender told last night’s committee that if businesses were deriving profit from public land the public, through the council, had a right to charge a fee for the use of that land.

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