THE Sentinel-Times reached out to both South Gippsland and Bass Coast Shire Councils in response to an article in The Age titled, ‘Could we save Melbourne’s restaurants by allowing them to use public spaces?’ (June 2).

Cafés and restaurants are now allowed 20 people inside their venue, with tables 1.5m apart and a minimum of four square metres of space per person.

The Beach Box Inverloch.

However, small venues may not be able to seat 20 people while maintaining the above social distancing requirements.

We wanted to know if the shires would help struggling eateries by allowing them to use public spaces they don’t already have trading permits for, such as car parks, footpaths, streets, laneways, squares or parks, to ensure they can host the maximum number of customers permitted.

The answer, was no.

South Gippsland’s regulatory services manager Luke Mullen said most cafes and restaurants in the shire have decided takeaway offerings are working well for their businesses and have opted not to open dine-in options.

“The use of public space would be subject to council approval to ensure the community is kept safe and access for all is maintained,” he said.

A spokesperson for Bass Coast Shire Council said small business operators will be reimbursed footpath trading permit fees from the last six months of 2019/20, as part of the shire’s Business and Community Response and Recovery Package.

However, no response was given as to a waiving of fees for new permits to businesses that might be struggling to hold enough people inside their stores.

From June 22, 50 patrons will be allowed inside venues, with 100 people by mid-July.