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Outdoor dining

COVID Outdoor Dining FAQs

Who Needs a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit

Who can apply for the COVID Outdoor Dining Permits?

Hospitality businesses in Knox that already have an Outdoor Dining Permit can apply for a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit so they can extend their outdoor dining space on public land.

Hospitality venues that currently don’t have outdoor dining on public land, can apply to do so.

Neighbouring hospitality businesses could apply to work together on an outdoor solution that suits their local area.

Do I need a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit from Council if I want to have outdoor dining within my private property boundary?

No. If you are proposing to use existing space within your private property boundary (or certificate of title), such as a car park, you do not require a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit from Council.

You may however require a liquor licence from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. In some limited circumstances, you may also require a planning permit or written approval from Council.

How do I find out if I need a planning permit or written approval from Council for outdoor dining?

The Minister for Planning made changes to Victorian planning schemes on 21 October 2020 that removed most requirements for a planning permit for outdoor dining.

In some limited circumstances, planning permit approval or written approval from Council may still be required. This could include:

  • Land that is affected by a Heritage Overlay, Bushfire Management Overlay, Erosion Management Overlay, Floodway Overlay, Land Subject to Inundation Overlay or Special Building Overlay
  • Land within close proximity to residential zones
  • Buildings over 3.6m in height, or buildings over 1.8m in height when the building is within 1m of a residential zone

Information on planning permit approvals can be found at knox.vic.gov.au/planning or call 9298 8125.

I already have an Outdoor Dining Permit, but I want to use more space or change my permit.

If you already have an Outdoor Dining Permit and you want to increase your outdoor dining area or change your arrangements, you can apply for a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit online. For further information please refer to the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines. Businesses can also contact the Community Laws team at CommunityLaws@knox.vic.gov.au or call 9298 8000 for further information and support.

Please note that if you have an existing permit, you will not be required to resubmit your Public Liability Insurance Certificate.

I don’t have any permits for outdoor dining. How can I apply?

If you have a restaurant, café or hospitality venue in Knox, and you want to use public land for outdoor dining, you can simply apply for a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit.

The COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines outline the requirements for expanding outdoor dining beyond what is permitted under the regular permit. A COVID Outdoor Dining Permit:

  • is for business that want to expand existing dining space onto the footpath outside your premises
  • is for business that want to use space in front of the business next door
  • is for business that want to use a road or carpark space
  • is free to apply, with no fees or charges
  • is for up until 31 August 2021. Permit conditions are temporary and may be subject to early variation due to safety, changes to COVID restrictions and conditional on continued consent from other affected businesses. Council may refuse or terminate a permit if a business has unaddressed compliance issues.

Talk to our team so we can help you apply with all the right information. When we consider your application we will take into account:

  • safety: outdoor dining areas should have furniture, infrastructure and safety features, as well as allow clear lines of sight through the public place and streets.
  • site specific conditions: outdoor dining should be integrated in a way that does not compromise existing street uses or public infrastructure (such as bins, hydrants, parking meters or bicycle hoops).
  • COVID restrictions: outdoor dining areas must follow the Victorian Government rules about social distancing, COVID hygiene practices and the maximum number of patrons that can be seated at a time. You will need a COVIDSafe Plan
  • access: outdoor dining should not obstruct required access for essential vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and allow for disabled access.
  • traffic: outdoor dining should consider surrounding traffic conditions including speed limits, separation from traffic, intersections, visibility of signs and that drivers and cyclist have a clear sight at all times.

How do I apply for other types of outdoor trading?


A Local Law Permit is required for any commercial activities undertaken on Council Land (displaying a sign or placing out goods for sale etc.).

Information on this process can be found at knox.vic.gov.au/commercialtrading

Permit options and what you need to do

What is the COVID Outdoor Dining Permit?

To support our local hospitality businesses to re-open as COVID-19 restrictions ease, we have created a new permit, called the ‘COVID Outdoor Dining Permit’.

Cafes, restaurants and hospitality venues can apply for this permit to use more public outdoor space. This might include footpaths, streets and some on-street car parking spaces. It might include the space in front of a neighbouring business.

It means you can safely set up outdoor chairs and tables for your customers to eat or wait for takeaway food and drink, while maintaining physical distancing.

Permits will be issued for up until 31 August 2021. Permit conditions are temporary and may be subject to early variation due to safety, changes to COVID restrictions and conditional on continued consent from other affected businesses. Council may refuse or terminate a permit if a business has unaddressed compliance issues.

What can I do under the COVID Outdoor Dining Permit?

Under this permit, you will be able to:

  • expand dining onto the footpath outside your premises
  • expand dining onto the footpath outside neighbouring premises
  • expand dining into on-street parking space immediately in front of your business and adjoining businesses

Full details are provided in the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines.

When can I apply for a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit?

Applications are now open.

Apply online

You can apply online for the COVID Outdoor Dining Permit. Businesses can also contact the Community Laws team at CommunityLaws@knox.vic.gov.au or call 9298 8000 for information and support.

How long will permits be valid for?

Permits will be issued until 31 August 2021. Permit conditions are temporary and may be subject to early variation due to safety, changes to COVID restrictions and conditional on continued consent from other affected businesses. Council may refuse or terminate a permit if a business has unaddressed compliance issues.

How much does a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit cost?

Our temporary COVID Outdoor Dining Permits are free. No application fees will be charged.

Can I use the footpath in front of the building next door?

If you are applying to occupy the footpath next door to your café/restaurant, you need written consent from the occupants of your neighbouring building, (or consent from a managing agent if building is vacant).

The outdoor dining area can be for more than two neighbouring building frontages but cannot be more than 10m in length.

Full details are provided in the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines.

What streets might be suitable if I want to expand my outdoor dining areas into parking bays?

All applications will be considered individually, but as a guide, suitable streets include:

  • local streets with 40 km/h speed limits
  • local streets with 50 km/h speed limits (subject to additional safety considerations).

Detailed information about traffic conditions and their considerations can be found in the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines.

What streets aren’t suitable for repurposing parking bays into outdoor trading areas?

All applications will be considered individually, but some streets aren’t suited to outdoor dining being extended into the parking bays or would need to meet additional requirements for safety and access issues. As a guide, outdoor dining, within parking bays, will not be supported in:

  • streets with speed limits above 50km/h
  • arterial roads
  • areas where dining would obstruct access for deliveries, essential and emergency vehicle access, access to commercial carparks, buildings and residences
  • roads with clearways
  • streets with protected cycle lanes.

Spaces designated as loading zones, no stopping zones and disabled parking will require special consideration. If supported by traders, loading zones can be considered if alternative loading zones are created nearby.

Full details are provided in the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines.

Will changes to my venue be at my own expense?


Eligible businesses can apply to the Victorian Government for a grant of $5,000 to pay for the practical things like umbrellas, outdoor furniture, screens and other equipment. If your outdoor dining is on public land, you will need your COVID Outdoor Dining Permit from Council before you can apply for these grants.

Grants can also assist businesses with training, marketing and other costs associated with adapting new or expanding existing outdoor dining or entertainment.

Applications are now open. Please visit business.vic.gov.au/support-for-your-business/grants-and-assistance/business-resilience-package/outdoor-eating-and-entertainment-package

How late will businesses be allowed to trade under the extended outdoor dining permits?

Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. As a guide, where there is no direct impact on residents, permit holders may be able to trade until 10pm.

Applications requesting trading hours beyond 10pm will be assessed against planning permit conditions, impacts on resident and public safety, particularly in residential areas, and whether or not food will be provided for the duration of trade.

What if I want to change my building to make outdoor dining easier?


If you are want to make changes to the exterior of your building, such as changing external windows or doors to make outdoor trading easier, you may need a Planning and Building Permit. Please contact the Planning and Building team on 9298 8125 for advice.

What support information do I need to apply?


Different outdoor dining options require different documents to demonstrate your permit eligibility. As a guide you will need to provide the following:

  • Confirmation that your business has a COVIDSafe Plan
  • Copy of your Public Liability Insurance Certificate of currency for $20 million and must list Knox City Council as an interested party from your insurance company
  • Details about the furniture, screens, heaters, planters and any other items proposed for the outdoor trading area
  • Site plan (existing conditions and proposed outdoor trading area showing the proposed furniture, infrastructure or any other items, at a scale of 1:100 and/or showing the dimensions of the space of outdoor dining being proposed in your application)
  • Written consent from neighbouring business that are affected by your proposal
  • Any photos or images of site or supporting documents for your application

Please have this information ready when applying so we can process your application as quickly as possible.

Note: If you plan to serve alcohol in new or expanded outdoor areas you will need to apply for a liquor licence separately through the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR). If your outdoor dining is on public land, you will need your COVID Outdoor Dining Permit from Council first.

What about residents who live near the outdoor dining area?


We’ll notify immediate residents affected by your proposed changes to make sure we reopen safely for all.

The assessment processes

How does Council make decisions about permit approvals?

Eligibility will be assessed according to the criteria in the COVID Outdoor Dining Guidelines. You will need to consider:

  • safety: outdoor dining areas should have furniture, infrastructure and safety features, as well as allow clear lines of sight through the public place and streets.
  • site specific conditions: outdoor dining should be integrated in a way that does not compromise existing street uses or public infrastructure (such as bins, hydrants, parking meters or bicycle hoops).
  • COVID restrictions: outdoor dining areas must follow the Victorian Government rules about social distancing, COVID hygiene practices and the maximum number of patrons that can be seated at a time. You will need a COVIDSafe Plan.
  • access: outdoor dining should not obstruct required access for essential vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and allow for disabled access.
  • traffic: outdoor dining should consider surrounding traffic conditions including speed limits, separation from traffic, intersections, visibility of signs and that drivers and cyclist have a clear sight at all times.

Please have this information ready when applying so we can process your application as quickly as possible.

How long will my application take to be processed?


We will decide your application as quickly as possible. More complex applications may take longer to process. We can decide your application more quickly if you give us all the information we ask for.

Estimated permit turn-around times:

  • standard outdoor dining permit – 3-5 working days
  • proposals to extend dining on footpath outside a neighbouring property – 3-5 working days
  • proposal involving larger areas and multiple furniture items – 3-5 days
  • proposal to occupy on-street parking spaces requiring business consultation – 7-10 days
  • proposals in residential areas requiring notifications – 7-10 days

Liquor licencing and insurance

Do I need a liquor licence to service alcohol in expanded outdoor dining areas?


Yes. If your businesses is serving alcohol in new or expanded outdoor areas you will need to apply for a liquor licence separately through the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).

The VCGLR has a new, easier way to help existing licensees temporarily use outdoor areas for dining. If your outdoor dining is on public land, you will need your COVID Outdoor Dining Permit from Council before you can apply for your liquor licence. Please visit vcglr.vic.gov.au/covid-19

If you have a COVID Outdoor Dining Permit or an existing Street Trading and Commercial Use of Footpath Permit (Outdoor Dining) and you apply to the VCGLR, they may issue a Temporary Limited Licences (outdoor area), so you can supply liquor in your outdoor area. There is no fee for this application if you already have a liquor license.

Do I still need public liability insurance?


Yes. All outdoor dining requires valid public liability insurance policy. The policy must insure you for at least $20 million and must nominate Knox Council as an interested party; and must cover injury, loss or damage to persons arising out of the activity carried out under the permit or the granting of this permit.

Support Available for Local Businesses

How are you supporting businesses to reopen?

The following initiatives have been put in place to complement state and federal business support programs and accelerate recovery of the local economy:

  • mentoring support, as well as tailored legal, tax and financial advice for businesses to keep employees at work, improve cash flow and plan for the future. Applications are now open at knoxbiz.com.au/businessrecovery
  • business permit guidance, provided by our Permit Support team, to help businesses open, expand or pivot sooner. Find out more at knox.vic.gov.au/business
  • a dedicated local business map, Knox First, to encourage residents to buy and support local can be found at knox.vic.gov.au/bekind
  • a retail activation strategy to encourage residents and workers to shop local
  • help for businesses to optimise their digital marketing skills
  • business support grants to help stimulate eCommerce, local manufacturing and creative industries
  • waiving of trading fees, including business A-frame signage fees, until 31 March 2021
  • waiving of outdoor dining fees until 31 August 2021

For more information on the support programs available for businesses, go to knoxbiz.com.au/businessrecovery


Why are these permits just for hospitality businesses?

As footpath trading for hospitality businesses is an existing process, we’re able to support hospitality businesses by making simple amendments to existing policies. In addition, the support for hospitality businesses directly aligns with the State Government’s Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package.

Having every retailer trading on the street wouldn’t allow for pedestrian safety, resident access, physical distancing or the safe passage of essential vehicles.

Separate plans to reactivate the general retail sector are underway and will be communicated as soon as possible.


How are you supporting other retailers?

The following initiatives have been put in place to complement state and federal business support programs and accelerate recovery of the local economy.

  • mentoring support, as well as tailored legal, tax and financial advice for businesses to keep employees at work, improve cash flow and plan for the future. Applications are now open at knoxbiz.com.au/businessrecovery
  • business permit guidance, provided by our Permit Support team, to help businesses open, expand or pivot sooner. Find out more at knox.vic.gov.au/business
  • a dedicated local business map, Knox First, to encourage residents to buy and support local can be found at knox.vic.gov.au/bekind
  • a retail activation strategy to encourage residents and workers to shop local
  • help for businesses to optimise their digital marketing skills
  • business support grants to help stimulate eCommerce, local manufacturing and creative industries
  • waiving of trading fees, including business A-frame signage fees, until 31 March 2021
  • waiving of outdoor dining fees until 31 August 2021

A full list of information, resources and grants is available on our KnoxBiz website

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