Squabble over dining fees
A NEW policy on street trading is promising a better outdoor experience for Auckland diners.
But licence fees are proving to be a sticking point for restaurant and cafe owners.
Under current policy eateries pay a set fee of $70 per chair in outdoor areas but that could change under a recommendation to a charge per square metre, which the Auckland City Council says will reduce administration costs.
But Hospitality Association Auckland regional manager Sara Tucker says the industry would prefer a flat, once-off fee, similar to a liquor licence fee.
Ms Tucker, who spoke at this month’s arts, culture and recreation committee meeting, alongside other representatives from the hospitality industry, says fees are too high as it is and venues with bigger outdoor areas shouldn’t be penalised.
“We can’t see why someone with 20 square metres should pay more than someone with 10 square metres,” she says.
Ms Tucker says that after working closely with council on the issue, the industry is happy with everything in the draft policy, except for the licence fee.
She hopes the final phase of consultation with stakeholders next month will end up with a “sensible result”.
Also speaking at the meeting, Alistair Rowe from the Restaurant Association said the council had no right to act as a landlord.
“In our view, seating and tables on the pavement is as much for public good as it is for private good.”
The current Public Places Bylaw means the licence fee can only be based on recovering council administration costs.
The new policy on outdoor dining is part of a series of street trading policies being developed by the council as a guideline for enforcing the Public Places Bylaw, which came into force last year.
Council arts, community and recreation policy manager Rachael Eaton says the idea behind creating the policy is to simplify things for restaurant owners wanting to have outdoor dining.
“We’re really wanting to encourage outdoor dining in Auckland,” she says.
“Businesses want it to happen too but they needed more consistent and clear guidelines.”
SPQR owner Chris Rupe says the square metre-based fee may benefit businesses who can fit more chairs into the same space.
The popular Ponsonby Rd restaurant has one of the busiest outdoor dining areas along the road.
Mr Rupe says he would also support a flat fee instead of the area-based cost.
“That sounds fairer to me.”
The licence fee is not expected to be set for several months still because it needs to go through another round of stakeholder consultation, after which it will be submitted as part of the annual plan to be enforced by July next year.
Another aspect of the policy causing tension within the council is the decision by the committee to allow alcohol, gambling and tobacco advertising on restaurants’ outdoor furniture.
Councillor Glenda Fryer says she’s outraged at the decision and that the Alcohol Advisory Council, the Problem Gambling Foundation and Action on Smoking and Health were not consulted on the policy.
“At a time when the Law Commission is carrying out a substantial review of our liquor laws due to liquor related harm, I find it incredulous that this Citzens and Ratepayers council is encouraging increased alcohol advertising in public places.”