Wollongong's alfresco dining options look set to get a boost, if a draft outdoor restaurant policy is adopted at Monday night’s Wollongong City Council meeting.
The new policy will simplify the process for restaurant and cafe owners to get approval for tables and chairs on the footpath, as areas of 20 square metres and less will no longer require development consent.
However, smokers will no longer be able to light up at their tables under the policy as outdoor dining areas will become smoke free by January 1, 2014.
While making it easier to gain approval, the policy will also lead to a crackdown on unapproved outdoor tables and chairs.
According to council figures, 80per cent of current outdoor dining areas in Wollongong city are unauthorised. There have been 26 approvals for outdoor restaurants issued across the city while a city-wide audit identified more than 100 premises occupying public footpaths without approval.
Under the draft policy, council officers will first advise operators that their occupation is unlawful and encourage them to apply to formalise the arrangement.
If they continue to operate without approval, the council may issue a penalty infringement notice.
One of the aims of the policy is to revitalise the CBD by allowing existing businesses to expand while attracting new restaurants and cafes to the area.
Educated Palate owner Suzanne Hankey, whose cafe opens on to Civic Plaza, thought the policy would help attract more people to Wollongong city.
The cafe had received council approval for an outdoor dining area, which Ms Hankey hoped to have operating by December.
‘‘It just encourages a friendly, family atmosphere,’’ she said.
‘‘Mums with prams and young children can sit out there and they are not in the way of anyone. Their kids can run around and play and they can watch them.
‘‘It’s better than trying to sit in a cafe and manoeuvre the pram between tables while the kids are playing up.
‘‘Outside, they have a grass area, they are under the trees, the kids can run around while the parents relax and have a coffee and something to eat.’’
Ms Hankey was more ambivalent about the no-smoking regulation, saying she could see both sides of the argument.
‘‘A lot of our customers are smokers,’’ she said.
‘‘If they’re not allowed to smoke in the park, it makes it difficult for them. But smokers are aware of the changes, they have been talking about it and I think they are resigned to it.’’