The changes will allow existing pubs, restaurants, cafés and other food and drink venues to use existing outdoor spaces, as well as nearby parks and public land, to accommodate and serve patrons without the need for a planning permit.
Businesses covered by the exemptions include restaurants, cafés, bars, hotels, function and reception centres and wineries.
The new provisions also provide exemptions from the need to obtain planning permits for construction of temporary buildings, the provision of car parking, and the sale and consumption of liquor — subject to conditions.
The exemptions apply to the conditions on existing planning permits, giving businesses more flexibility about how they use their own land in order to comply with public health guidelines.
The new planning changes will apply while Victoria remains under a State of Emergency, and for 12 months after the State of Emergency has been lifted.
Melbourne’s hospitality businesses are expected to reopen from 11:59pm on 1 November with predominantly outdoor-seated service, provided COVID-19 case numbers stay low and will be at the discretion of public health advice.
The turnaround for temporary liquor licence applications has also been fast-tracked from up to eight weeks down to just three business days.
However, liquor licence, public health matters and public land manager requirements may still need to be met along with council-administered local laws.
The Victorian government said the new planning exemptions will support the hospitality industry by enabling businesses to better plan and use their own land and expand onto adjoining land to accommodate more patrons while still adhering to distancing guidelines.
The changes will be made under planning amendment VC139 to be published in the Victorian government’s gazette.
“Our world-famous restaurants and food scene are a vital part of Melbourne and Victoria, and we all want to see them bounce back and welcome back patrons in a safe way,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
“The move to more outdoor drinking and dining has the potential to change our city and our state for the better and open up exciting new experiences — not just for this summer, but for every summer.”