The inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill ("proudly twinned with Pyongyang") is proud of its rich "street life" in which restaurants and cafes under a sea of market umbrellas spill out on to pavements meant for people to walk along. But the jostle of pedestrians and gourmandising patrons has created something of a nuisance and at last something is to be done about it.

Burchett Hill Council has decided to ban pedestrians from walking along the city's "eat streets" without a specific permit. Restaurateurs have been loud in their complaints that pedestrians are "getting in the way" of outdoor restaurant tables. "Al fresco dining is a sign of our sophistication in Burchett Hill and uncontrolled walkers are an obstacle to reaching its full potential," says legendary chef Lou Salmonella, proprietor of the popular Cafe Botulismo Bar Ristorante Gastro-Grill and Gourmet Kitchen. "People with no intention of sitting down to eat just wandering along the street and bumping into tables make outdoor service difficult and carry individual rights just too far," he told Argus through a miasma of frying peanut oil while overseeing his staff in the preparation of the restaurant's celebrated "signature range" of "designer dishes".

"What's more, inconsiderate people use the excuse of 'doing their shopping' to try and park their cars right alongside our kerbside tables, blowing their exhaust fumes all over our customers." These emissions, Mr Salmonella pointed out, "tainted" the taste of the innovative dishes ("all with fresh seasonal ingredients, locally sourced") for which Cafe Botulismo is renowned. (He did not add, though he might have, that from time to time he has been privately grateful to the smell of the exhaust gases, when the locally sourced fish or brains were not as fresh as they might have been.)

Burchett Hill Council estimates that, as part of the city's quest for the "tourist dollar", restaurant capacity could be "quadrupled" if the narrow sections of street presently given over to pedestrians were rezoned to make room for extra tables and chairs. The Mayor, Councillor Les Rhiannon, said that "consideration should also be given" to designating the roadside strip where cars are parked a "permanent clearway for restaurant use with more chairs and tables, waiter stations and coffee machines."

Responding to ratepayers' protests that the pavement tables were themselves an "intrusion" into publicly owned space, Councillor Rhiannon said that it was" a cardinal principle of local government" that "Council knows best". Nevertheless, Council did not want to "ride roughshod" over its ratepayers and would issue permits to pedestrians with "legitimate reasons" for wishing to use the street. This would "safeguard the right of all citizens in a democratic society to free and unrestricted movement". He said that "legitimate reasons" could range from "going to a restaurant to going to a bar or cafe, or even calling into one to make a booking."

Jarrod Crass, Burchett Hill's thrusting new Director of Tourism Marketing Development, says expanding restaurant space further into the street is just "a drop in the bucket" if the municipality is "to really get serious about putting its name in lights on the international dining map". He says there are many "under-used public spaces" in Burchett Hill - "Pioneers' Park, the War Memorial with its Avenue to the Fallen, the Burchett Bovines footy oval, the local library, the senior citizens' centre, to name but a few" - that "would make great restaurants and clubs". His ambition, he said, was "to not rest until Burchett Hill is covered with restaurant tables and chairs, spreading ever wider, like a carpet of flowers, a magnet for gourmets everywhere."

6 April 2012

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