Wollongong City Council says they're all for reviving the city's night life and encourage outdoor dining, but businesses will still have to pay thousands of dollars extra for it.
Over the coming months council will follow in Sydney's footsteps by opening up outdoor spaces for alfresco drinking and dining, with new framework developed by the state government.
It will mean cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels would be able to apply for an outdoor dining licence without needing to get a planning approval.
Manager of live music venue La La Las, Nathan Stratton, welcomed the move but said council shouldn't be charging extra when some businesses were "struggling to keep the lights on".
"In these tough times, maybe they should think about waving some of the fees," he said.
"There's a lot of cafes - including us - where we pay a lot of money in rent, then council ask for more money on top to use outdoor space, it's more of a detraction.
"Some landlords who have a balcony that protrudes into council air space, they have to pay that fee as well."
For 18 square metres of outdoor space on Globe Lane - which is sloping - La La Las pay $3,500 per year for that privilege. The Mercury understands the landlord also pays about $13,000 for air space to use the balcony, and another $20,000 in council rates.
A council spokeswoman said they had already waived outdoor dining fees when NSW was in lockdown for any business operating on council-owned or managed lands (like the mall or in the city centre).
"We continue to look for ways to support local businesses across the city," she said.
"There is an additional cost associated with the use of outdoor spaces to facilitate alfresco dining. This cost is scaled and takes into account the size of the businesses' offering."
Mr Stratton said the council was moving in the right direction with helping local businesses and reinvigorate the CBD mall but it did seem like a "bit of a cash grab".
He said post-pandemic when the Hawks are playing or there's a show at the entertainment centre, hospitality businesses should be allowed to capitalise on the extra foot traffic and put tables and chairs outside.
"Lets make an after party-type thing, stuff like that could be really cool to extend on whats happening ... there's so much potential," he said.
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