27 January 2022

Street dining arrives in Queanbeyan's CBD

| Max O'Driscoll
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The trial of outdoor dining in Crawford Street has gone over well with the community so far. Photo: Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council.

Queanbeyan’s Crawford Street has become the new home for outdoor dining in the region. The ‘Crawford Street Activation’ is a Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council-run initiative, which kicked off on Thursday (20 January).

The council has placed cable-drum tables and colourful seating along the street. The idea is to encourage the community to enjoy outdoor dining and meeting places in the Queanbeyan CBD.

The project is a product of the council’s Place Management team. The team is part of the Business and Innovation unit and works across the Queanbeyan-Palerang region alongside the community to improve its places.

Program Coordinator of Place Management at QPRC Tracey Lamont made regular visits to check in with the dining experiment over the weekend. She was amazed by the overwhelming response from the community for a dining option that has been a few years in the making.

“That’s why the lifestyle precinct was built, to encourage people to ‘stick and stay’ and have options for seating,” said Ms Lamont.

“With COVID and everything last year, my colleagues and I thought it was a really good time to try and do something like this.”

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When not in use, the street furniture sits in a storage container on an empty block on Crawford Street.

“It’s all driven by how long we can keep that container there. We’ve coordinated with the owner of that land and we’ve basically got until the end of April,” said Ms Lamont.

“We have a lot of factors to consider along that street. We were always trying to have a collaborative approach with the hospitality businesses and the businesses in general along that street.

“Everyone is pitching in to make this happen. Our staff bring them out in the morning, and then the staff at the hospitality businesses there that close at about 9:30 pm bring them in for us at night.”

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Should the outdoor dining space need to be moved from Crawford Street, QPRC is confident that there are several spaces across the region where it could also be implemented, with this being a trial for not only Crawford Street but the whole region.

Owner of Thirty 4 Cafe and Restaurant Mert Toplu agreed that the demand had been immense over the weekend.

“It was absolutely crazy,” said Mr Toplu.

“Until 10 am, I was saying ‘you can use it but only for takeaway’. Because of the demand, I had to start service out there, and we put cutlery and cups in place.”

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He did, however, suggest that it meant his staff, already at a minimum due to the impacts of the pandemic, were spread thin.

“I’m pretty happy with it business-wise, but also it means we require more staff because we experienced that it’s a bit of a walking distance, and we had to keep running 20 to 25 metres out and come back, it was a lot more work for us,” said Mr Toplu.

“With COVID, there isn’t enough workforce and we were short on staff, but I guess it’s worth it. We normally have 100-odd seats, and including the council’s seats, our capacity reached up to 180. It’s good and bad, but in reality, it was great to see as an owner the place filled by our customers.”

QPRC is encouraging feedback from the Crawford Street outdoor dining trial users on their website.

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The failed Manuka Franklin Street part closure last year could learn from this simple treatment. It does need a wide pavement to properly integrate with the cafes . Also it’s great to be able to park almost right next to a table – something lost to Canberra decades ago and a luxury for Canberrans visiting Crawford Street.

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