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Outside exposure

The popularity of alfresco dining comes at a price for Perth cafes and restaurants, as Julie-anne Sprague discovered.

ONE balmy evening when you’re sitting outdoors enjoying your food under the stars, take a close look at the ground you’re sitting on. Restaurants that want to put tables and chairs outside their doors are required to pay their relevant council fees that, in some areas, have skyrocketed in recent years.

If you think you’re paying more to eat at a restaurant with outdoor dining you may want to know about the extra costs the restaurant incurs to give customers that pleasure.

To begin with, all restaurants seeking an alfresco licence must have public liability insurance, and these premiums have soared during the past year.

Added to this rising cost to restaurants operating in Perth and Northbridge is the City of Perth’s new Alfresco Dining Policy, which will require restaurant owners to pay full fees from July this year.

The new policy was introduced in 2000 but, because the costs were significantly increased, the city allowed restaurants to pay a portion of the fees, gradually increasing them over time.

The costs involved for most alfresco licences include the application fee, an annual renewal fee, a table and a chair or square metre charge for the outdoor space. Before this, however, liability insurance must already be in place.

The City of Perth and The City of Fremantle charge the highest fees to alfresco licences. A restaurant in Northbridge will have to pay $82.50 per square metre of outdoor space from July this year, whereas the previous charge was $61.60. Restaurants also are allowed to utilise the car bays outside the restaurant once they become ‘no parking’ zones. But there is a cost to that one, too. The bay is measured and the Northbridge restaurant owner, who currently would be paying $36.96 per square metre, will have to pay the Perth City Council $49.50 per square metre.

The fees have aroused tension among Northbridge restaurants, many of which are feeling the pinch of increasing costs across the board. The fees for applying for an alfresco licence ranges from $50, in areas where alfresco dining is minimal, up to over $300 in the more congested outdoor dining precincts. Councils charge differently with respect to outdoor space.

Some choose to charge restaurants by the number of tables and chairs, while others opt for the square metre charge, with fees paid annually. The majority of councils Gusto spoke with this week charge an annual fee for the space outside, with many councils adding an extra fee on top of those charges.

While the increasing number of fees and regulations is a bone of contention for restaurant and cafe owners, the Perth public will continue to demand (and ultimately pay for) the option.

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