News | 10 November 2021

Council working to support hospitality sector

Wellington City Council is putting together a package of support for the local hospitality sector in response to some of the challenges they are experiencing from COVID-19 restrictions.

Women enjoy coffee outside cafe in Wellington

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says “the package includes free short-term pavement leases, special license fees held to reschedule a cancelled event, and potentially opening outdoor areas such as car parks, wide footpaths, and other parts of the city to facilitate outdoor dining.

“COVID-19 restrictions have hit the hospitality sector hard and added a layer of complexity to operating their businesses. In these ongoing and uncertain times, it is imperative we create as much flexibility as possible with innovative ideas to ease COVID-19 restriction pressures.

“The work of WellingtonNZ and our events sector, and our whole community commitment to maximum level vaccination should ensure a prosperous and enjoyable Christmas and New Year for residents and our visitors,” says the Mayor.

The Council will process short-term lease applications free of charge so businesses can expand their tables onto the footpath outside their establishment.

Businesses that were granted a special alcohol licence for a one-off event which has been cancelled due to COVID-19 will have their fee held by Council for when they can reschedule the event.

Council’s Public Health Group Manager Helen Jones says the Council is investigating options for on-street dining on wide public footpaths, attached to a restaurant, café or bar, where people can sit down to eat.

“With summer coming we’re also looking to possibly convert parking spaces outside restaurants and bars into outdoor seating areas, and considering what other spaces in the city can be opened up to facilitate outdoor dining. These initiatives will supplement the number of tables available for food service and supports COVID-19 public health guidelines to be outside when socialising where air is circulating.

“Large restaurants and small mum and dad players across Wellington’s CBD and suburbs know their surroundings and how they could optimise their space. We’re asking them to come to us with their ideas for their outdoor spaces so we can provide advice on how to make it happen within current legislation and health and safety guidelines,” says Helen.

The Council has put in place a project manager to specifically work with hospitality businesses to provide advice and guidance.  

Councillor Simon Woolf, Chair of the Pūroro Hātepe Regulatory Processes Committee says the sector is working together.

“We know clusters of Wellington hospitality venue owners are working together to see how they can extend their premises out into the street,” he says.

Unless they are licensed, outdoor dining areas can only serve food, not alcohol as current Government legislation does not allow this. Getting a license can also be expensive and time consuming.

“There are some very innovative ideas happening around the country which we’re keeping tabs on. In Auckland, businesses are getting creative with their outdoor areas by bringing in hot houses for patrons to sit in outside their venues. A similar idea could be used in Wellington, but we would have to consider our slightly more changeable weather,” adds Councillor Woolf.

Jeremy Smith from Hospitality New Zealand says the sector needs this support.

"Lockdown has been tough on hospitality, and we appreciate Council's plans to help us utilise the areas surrounding our businesses to enhance outdoor dining and increase the number of seats available.

“We encourage Wellington bars and restaurant owners to contact the Council with their creative ideas for using their spaces to expand their businesses," he says.

For more information, see our outdoor seating page or email outdoordining@wcc.govt.nz.