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NSW Department of Planning and Environment
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Our communities are ready to make up for lost time after months of being stuck indoors.


NSW has the perfect climate for outdoor dining, bringing life to our streets and public spaces. Outdoor dining gives people a way to reconnect and socialise while following social distancing rules.


Following a successful outdoor dining trial, we are changing the planning rules to permanently enable pubs and small bars across the state to implement outdoor dining as exempt development.


This means all pubs and small bars can apply to use the footpath and public spaces to serve diners alfresco under exempt development. These changes align pubs and small bars with the existing planning rules for cafes and restaurants.


Temporary alfresco dining measures

We are supporting councils and businesses to bounce back by changing the rules for alfresco dining on public and private land – to include parks, registered clubs and open spaces.


Hospitality providers will have an easier application process. Similar to the outdoor dining trial, they will be able to apply to setup alfresco dining as exempt development with landowner’s consent. These temporary measures will run until 30 June 2022.


These temporary measures mean:

  • Existing bars and pubs can use adjacent sites such as carparks or open space to serve food and drinks. 
  • Councils can setup popup outdoor venues to serve food and drinks on public land.
  • Registered clubs can temporarily repurpose their outdoor spaces such as car parks, bowling greens to serve food and drinks.


Registered clubs are located across the state to readily support more access to safe spaces for people to dine. These measures are part of the NSW Government’s efforts to support businesses and communities recover from the pandemic, as vaccination rates increase.


All sites will be subject to development standards to manage environmental impacts such as hours of operation, patron capacity, safety and waste management.


The changes are supported by equivalent legislative changes prepared by Liquor & Gaming NSW to amend liquor licenced boundaries.


What do these changes mean for businesses?

These changes mean that there is no need for a planning approval to have outdoor dining, making it easier, faster and cheaper for businesses to focus on recovering from the pandemic.


All venues must seek landowner or council approval to have outdoor dining. If it's on council land, outdoor dining is considered against the related council's outdoor dining policies and guidelines. Other approvals are also needed under the Roads Act 1993, the Local Government Act 1993 and any changes to liquor licences issued under the Liquor Act 2007.


Consent authorities (usually councils) can approve outdoor dining more quickly and at a lower cost to pub and bar owners. To help speed up the application process, the department has also created an online platform on the planning portal that allow councils to receive an online lodgement for outdoor dining.


The NSW Government is offering $5,000 rebates for hospitality businesses to get their outdoor dining ventures in a park or public space off the ground. Registrations are now open via Service NSW.


Support for councils

To help speed up the application process, the department has created an online lodgement for outdoor dining through the planning portal. The Office of Local Government published Streamlined outdoor dining approvals (PDF, 7.2 MB) to support councils with the outdoor dining approval process during the trial.


The Small Business Commissioner’s Outdoor Dining Policy and User Guide (PDF, 6.7 MB) assists councils with outdoor dining.


Download the Outdoor Dining Guide


How have these changes been made?

We have amended the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) to make the  exempt development pathway for outdoor dining available to small bars and pubs permanently.


Councils or Place Management NSW (the managers of The Rocks and Darling Harbour) will continue to assess applications for outdoor dining against their outdoor dining policies.


They will manage venues under the approvals they grant under the Roads Act 1993 and Local Government Act 1993. These approvals are then fast-tracked to Liquor & Gaming NSW which approve new liquor licence boundaries.


The temporary alfresco measures are a further amendment to the policy to support more safe spaces to dine outdoors.


The amendments support the Premiers Roadmap to recovery and help businesses to operate under the social distancing requirements in the public health orders.


Outdoor Dining trials

In October 2020, the NSW government announced an outdoor dining trial to support local venues and boost the economy.

The trial has run smoothly. Businesses have benefited from increased turnover and the community has enjoyed new outdoor dining areas.  During the City of Sydney trial, Darling Harbour businesses saw a 27% increase in customers.

The changes have been embraced by the community and deliver an economic benefit to local businesses.

The trial allowed small bars and pubs to provide outdoor dining on footpaths or public spaces in:

Statewide NSW outdoor dining trials

The department has amended the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) to allow outdoor dining as exempt development for small bars and pubs in all NSW local government areas.

Image credit: Destination NSW.

Friends enjoying afternoon drinks at The Beach House Restaurant and Bar, Port Macquarie. Photo by: Destination NSW

Outdoor dining trial for Sydney LGA

The 12-month trial of outdoor dining for Sydney Local Government Area is now underway, with the trial to end on 31 October 2021.

Image credit: City of Sydney

George Street (copyright CoS): Artist Impression - George Street south pedestrianisation concept by City of Sydney

Outdoor dining in The Rocks

The NSW Government has opened outdoor spaces outside approved food and drink venues for drinking and dining just in time for the summer months with a 12-month trial in The Rocks.

Image of outdoor dining in The Rocks. Photo by Anna Kucera