New small bars get a boost in Sydney

Sydney’s inner west is set to become even more small-bar friendly, with Leichhardt Council proposing to adopt changes that will make it cheaper and easier to open venues in the area.

According to the council, the move has been planned to help boost activity and “build the night time economy” around Leichhardt’s main streets. Already a major restaurant destination, the suburb’s council has faced criticism in the past over its parking policies.

However, according to Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne, the changes may see the parking levies of up to $30,000 eliminated for new bar operators in areas designated as ‘recognised shopping precincts’, as well as the streamlining of development approvals.

“Small bars can help to bring our streets alive at night and boost our local economy,” he says.  “Small bars typically attract patrons who are interested in a smaller, more intimate setting and often are visited as part of a journey – like visiting a small bar, cinema and restaurant in the same night.”

The mayor went on to say that by promoting small bar openings in “existing shopping corridors” – for example along Darling Street, Booth Street, Norton Street and Parramatta Road – the council is trying to create a precinct-style development of the area rather than the opening of large single-venue developments like pubs or clubs.

“As more small bars open, we will see a boost to tourism and spending in our local economy as well as more opportunities for local live music, arts and culture,” says Byrne.

The council has also reported that it will convene a seminar with local restauranteurs, cafe owners and prospective small bar owners to discuss how they can make use of the new system.

Subject to NSW Planning Department approval, the policy changes supported by Leichhardt Council include:

  • Simplifying the development application process for small bars (classified as licensed premises with less than 60 patrons);
  • Removing the requirement for small bars to provide off-street car parking in recognised shopping streets (such as Darling Street, Norton Street, Booth Street and Parramatta Road);
  • Making it easier for restaurants and cafes to convert to small bars without the need for council approval by making these types of ‘change of use’ a type of ‘exempt development’; and
  • Reinforcing business activity in the main streets.
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