Squab­ble over din­ing fees

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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.”

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