HOSPITALITY venues throughout Bass Coast welcomed council’s decision to waive and refund footpath trading fees for the 2021-22 year.

The motion was first presented at council’s September 15 meeting, where during Urgent Business, Cr Rochelle Halstead advocated for councillors to consider waiving and refunding fees at October’s meeting.

Owner of Inverloch’s Inlet Hotel, John McInnes, welcomed the news last Friday as the hotel was preparing for its first night of double vaccinated patrons.

“It’s a bit of a God-send for us, we can just keep trading and employing staff,” Mr McInnes said.

“Every little bit helps at the moment; everyone is battling and struggling.”

The hotel had established a fully enclosed outdoor area last year, made with reused shipping containers fit with heaters, blinds and an incredible view of the area.

“It’s been good, we’ve got numerous bookings going forward, including weddings and functions,” he said.

“The shire was really good and came to party with us early on; hopefully we can keep it for a bit longer.”

Council officers have re-established the internal working group to best facilitate business requests to extend outdoor trading.

Olive Justice Place in Cowes is currently trialling an existing local restaurant food vendor on-site.

Pending the trial, an expression of interest process will be undertaken to offer the opportunity to other existing traders in Cowes to operate from the site.

According to council’s October agenda, there are 180 footpath trading and outdoor dining permits totalling $80,000, of which $39,000 has already been paid, that will be positively impacted.

Council said any costs associated with implementing outdoor dining initiatives would come from operational savings.

However, the state government recently announced a $40 million COVIDSafe Outdoor Activation Fund, to help councils transform more outdoor areas.

The fund will allocate $20.5 million so councils can provide immediate assistance to businesses to operate outdoors, through physical improvements such as new street furniture, landscaping, marquees, planter boxes and public art.

Funding will be allocated based on the level of business activity, with rural councils to receive between $100,000 and $250,000.

Councils will also receive a share of $19.5 million to establish semi-permanent and permanent outdoor precincts.

And the $54.5 million Outdoor Economy Package will support costs for businesses setting up street trading, and for councils to provide the necessary infrastructure and support.

A $14.5 million COVIDSafe Outdoor Activation Voucher Program will provide businesses, community organisations, not-for-profits and trader associations with $2000 grants when they spend at least that amount to support initiatives such as outdoor hospitality and entertainment.

The vouchers will be valid for expenses including purchasing and hiring marquees, screens and umbrellas, obtaining insurance and promoting outdoor operations.

Council is seeking funding of $500,000 to support street activation and outdoor dining activities over summer.