The centres and destinations of Yarra Ranges are seeing their streets filled with life once again as restrictions have been lifted and our community embraces our local businesses.
Yarra Ranges Council continues to support businesses to open their doors in preparation for the major tourism periods going into 2021. Temporary outdoor dining spaces on footpaths and in car parks have helped businesses to welcome diners while safely meeting COVID-19 restrictions.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Fiona McAllister, said the pandemic had caused significant upheaval for many businesses in outer-metropolitan Melbourne, who rely on tourism.
“Yarra Ranges is famous for its regional destinations, and our local businesses rely on the significant traffic we receive from local, interstate and international visitors,” Cr McAllister said.
“When Stage 4 restrictions were introduced in August many of our businesses had to close up, reduce staff or change their whole way of operating to stay afloat.
“They’ve done a remarkable job of adapting to an extremely turbulent year and our community doing the right thing to stop the spread of COVID-19 means we’re now looking at a summer where we can welcome visitors back through our towns and our business’ doors.”
Council’s Place Recovery and Business Support Teams have been approaching local hospitality businesses over recent months, helping to prepare them for the return of indoor dining and new outdoor dining rules.
Preserving pedestrian and driveway access, accessibility for prams and people using mobility aids, loading zones, public transport and disability parking are all key priorities for Council when assessing temporary outdoor dining spaces, all the while helping businesses to maximise their numbers of seats.
Cr McAllister said the team had already received enthusiastic feedback about new outdoor dining spaces where concrete barriers have been used to turn parking spaces into temporary outdoor dining parklets.
“It was like the rug was ripped out from right under our feet. We’ve had to let go of employees we’ve had for 20 years. It was heartbreaking. Our staff will be so excited to come back. More outdoor dining options mean more staff can return.”
– A restaurant owner in the Upper Yarra region.
“The last thing anyone wants to see is businesses unable to trade or return. We’ve invested so much now and have come too far to give up. Even if car park dining isn’t suitable for my business, it might be just what saves the business next door or down the road,”
– A cafe owner in Belgrave.
“At first, we weren’t sure about the idea of concrete bollards as they looked like a construction site and we were worried about losing a couple of parking spaces but with the government’s grant and a little creativity, we have a space that our customers love and now we want to keep the space permanently!”
– A Kilsyth cafe owner.
“Where it is safe and practical, Council has been providing vehicle barriers and screening to create new outdoor dining spaces,” she said.
“Not every business has the room to out tables and chairs out the front, which means clever innovation is sometimes required. We’re looking at every case on its merits and considering the needs of businesses and the community when looking at new outdoor dining areas.
“We’ve already heard from businesses who were hesitant about having barriers out in car parks, or how the change might look for them, but they’ve since given us positive feedback, and experienced an increase in customers since reopening.
“We’re so proud of our hardworking cafés, restaurants, wineries and breweries across Yarra Ranges, who have been resilient and have made significant changes to meet the challenges this year has put on them. These changes have absolutely contributed to our region and the State’s successes this year.
“I strongly encourage anyone – community members and visitors alike – to explore the Yarra Ranges and throw their support behind our local businesses.”