The Victorian government has announced a $290 million package designed to help Melbourne’s CBD and other hubs transition to outdoor dining.

Looking to global cities including New York and London for a blueprint, the city will repurpose its footpaths and roads to make way for expanded outdoor dining.

Premier Dan Andrews flagged the initiative while revealing the state’s Roadmap to Recovery on Sunday 6 September.

Details announced on 13 September include proactive planning and licensing regulations. Under The Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package councils and businesses outside Melbourne’s CBD will receive $87.5 million to make outdoor dining safe and practical.

A further $58 million will be used to establish $5,000 grants for hospitality businesses. Grants will fund the purchase of umbrellas, outdoor furniture, screens and other equipment. License and unlicensed cafés, restaurants, takeaway food businesses, pubs, taverns, bars and clubs with a payroll of less than $3 million will be eligible for the grants, which are expected to reach more than 11,000 businesses.

Funds will also be used to invest in training and advertising as well as other business needs.

Local councils will receive $29.5 million to streamline permit, enforcement and monitoring processes. Assistance of up to $500,000 will be provided to eligible metropolitan and regional city councils, while rural councils can apply for up to $250,000 — these funds can be used to reduce or waive permit fees or invest in infrastructure projects such as streetscaping and lighting.

The state government will also work in partnership with the City of Melbourne to reshape the city’s CBD through a $100 million fund. The Melbourne City Recovery Fund will provide grants to CBD businesses, of which there are more than 16,500 registered.

The fund will make $30 million in grants available to small and medium businesses. Businesses who successfully apply will be able to use the grants to pay for equipment and convert rooftops, courtyards and other spaces into hospitality zones. They can also use the grants to cover the cost of remodelling internal layouts.

The government has also earmarked $30 million to support COVIDSafe events and cultural activities, while further $40 million will be used to undertake physical improvements to the CBD, such as creating wider footpaths, bollards and planter boxes.

$3 billion in grants, tax relief and cashflow support

Over the weekend, the state government also announced an additional $3 billion in grants, tax relief and cashflow support.

Of that $3 billion, $1.1 billion will be set aside to fund cash grants for small and medium sized businesses that are most affected by trading restrictions. Included in this amount is $822 million as part of the third round of the Business Support Fund.

Grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 will be delivered to businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million.

A $251 million Licenced Venue Fund will also be established to provide grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 for licenced venues, including bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and reception centres. Liquor license fees will be waived in 2021.

Payroll tax will be deferred for businesses with payrolls up to $10 million for the full 2020-21 financial year.

The government will also invest $44 million to help businesses access tools need to operate online under the ‘COVID Normal’, including $20 million for small businesses to access off-the-shelf digital programs such as Shopify or Squareonline, training and workshops.

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