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Outdoor dining

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.

Outdoor dining on footpaths and roads

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) allows food and drink premises such as cafes, restaurants, pubs and small bars across the state to have outdoor dining on the footpath as exempt development.

This means hospitality businesses can apply to council to use the footpath and public spaces to serve diners outside without needing a separate development application. Instead, councils issue permits approved under the Local Government Act or Roads Act.

Temporary outdoor dining measures on other types of land

Outdoor dining has been popular with the community, councils and businesses. We are extending the temporary outdoor dining rules until 31 December 2023. This will encourage more outdoor dining and give businesses longer to seek permanent approval.

This means temporary outdoor dining can be exempt development:

  • Existing food and drink premises can use adjacent private land, such as carparks, laneways or open space, to serve food and drinks with the landowner’s consent.
  • 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.

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

Licensed premises must apply to Liquor & Gaming NSW to have their liquor license boundary temporarily extended to include the new outdoor space. In addition, licensed venues will now be able to apply via a fast-track process to make their temporary boundary approval permanent. Further details are provided on the Liquor & Gaming NSW website.

How do businesses apply?

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

Footpaths and roads

Apply to your local council for the use of the land for outdoor dining. Outdoor dining applications are considered against the related council's outdoor dining policies and guidelines. Council approvals, also known as a permit, are issued under the Roads Act 1993 and the Local Government Act 1993.

Contact your local council for details of their application process, or view the NSW Planning Portal to lodge an application online.

Other types of land

Venue owners must obtain the landowner’s consent to use the land for outdoor dining. Use of the temporary measures for land such as bowling greens will generally not need council approval. 

If you are unsure if council approval is needed for the use of the land, please contact your local council.

Liquor licence

A liquor licence is needed for food and beverage venues to sell and serve alcohol from Liquor & Gaming NSW. Councils notify Liquor & Gaming NSW and NSW Police when an outdoor dining application is received that requires a temporary change of licence boundary. For outdoor dining areas where only landowner’s consent is required, venues must contact L&GNSW directly. For more information on liquor licence applications go to Liquor & Gaming NSW.

Support for councils

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

Councils can accept an online lodgement for outdoor dining applications via the e-Planning platform if council has been onboarded to this function of e-Planning.

The Office of Local Government published Streamlined outdoor dining approvals guide to support councils with the outdoor dining approval process. The guide steps out the process for councils to follow, if accepting applications directly or by online lodgement.

The Small Business Commissioner’s Outdoor Dining Policy and User Guide also assists councils with outdoor dining.

How have these changes been made?

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

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 temporary liquor licence boundaries.

The temporary outdoor dining measures are a further amendment to the Codes SEPP to support more safe spaces to dine outdoors.

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: