Being outdoors is part of the iconic Queensland lifestyle across our cities, towns and regions, and a key attraction for visitors.

This guide is designed to help councils activate outdoor trade to support their local small businesses—while revitalising and creating vibrant public places where people want to stop, shop, eat and drink.

On this page

Identify opportunities for outdoor trade
Make it easier for small businesses to trade outdoors
Engage and promote locally
Design and operate outdoor trade areas
Queensland Government support for outdoor activation

Identify opportunities for outdoor trade

Questions to ask before you start activating outdoor trade

It can be helpful to consider some fundamental questions before you design an initiative to activate outdoor trade.

Engage with your local business community to find out which businesses are interested in outdoor trade, and what they would like to do. Is there opportunity for businesses to cooperate with each other and with council to activate outdoor trade?

Working with businesses and areas that are already keen to trade outdoors is a great way to get started.

Learn more about engaging with businesses.

You may like to consider these factors:

  • your local community—and how they would like to use different places in your town
  • local weather, climate, and environmental features
  • existing business communities and precincts
  • unused or underutilised spaces
  • existing infrastructure, transport, amenities (e.g. public lighting, seating, bikeways/scooters, public wi-fi)
  • existing levels of patronage/foot traffic—and the potential to improve this
  • synergies with other activities (e.g. entertainment, events, festivals)
  • unique arts, cultural or First Nations elements that could be highlighted
  • related council placemaking activities or strategies/initiatives (e.g. related to encouraging walking or cycling).

Different ways to activate outdoor trade

Councils can activate outdoor trade in many ways. Consider these ideas and find an approach that works best for your local area.

  • Review all relevant council regulation, for example, local laws and planning schemes, to discover if they unnecessarily impede outdoor trade—then take action to streamline them to make it easier to do business.
  • Develop a local policy which clearly identifies your objectives for outdoor dining or outdoor trade. This provides a framework for coordinating requests and approvals to use footpaths, roadways or other public spaces for outdoor trade activities.
  • Consider whether you need to develop specific local laws to activate and regulate outdoor trading, or whether you can use current local laws dealing with use of roads and other council-controlled land.
  • If you intend to apply certain local laws to state-controlled roads, a section 66 Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (TORUM) agreement with the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) will need to be sought and reflected in the relevant local laws.

  • Identify areas within your towns where outdoor trade is appropriate and safe. This will require consultation with directly affected small businesses and landowners. For example, if the area identified is within the boundaries of a state-controlled road a section 66 (TORUM) agreement with TMR will be required to apply local laws on matters such as footpath dining and roadside vending.
  • Think about how you could help expand the use of public land for outdoor trade, for example, through new permanent or temporary infrastructure such as parklets.
  • Consider engaging a professional placemaking consultant to assist you with design, development and delivery of your outdoor trade activation ideas.
  • Get new inspiration and discuss ideas with your peers through the Placemaking Community of Practice, as part of Queensland's Small Business Friendly program.

If you are considering undertaking works to establish an outdoor trade area, for example, by installing parklets, seating or shade structures, review tips on how to minimise disruption to small businesses in Works with Small Business or check out a 2-page practical snapshot of the guidelines.

Read more about options for businesses to trade outdoors in Queensland.

Make it easier for small businesses to trade outdoors

Consider taking action to lower any barriers that exist to outdoor trade. This may involve policy change or amending local laws, reviewing fees, changing practices or taking up delegations available to you—all of which can cut red tape for businesses. You may also consider establishing a formal Outdoor Trade Activation Area (OTAA).

  • You have the power to regulate outdoor trading activities such as footpath dining, street markets and commercial activities in parks and other areas (except state-controlled roads unless a section 66 (TORUM) agreement is in place).
  • Under the Local Government Act 2009 and the City of Brisbane Act 2010, you have the power to control local roads in your area, to close a road to traffic either permanently or temporarily, and to establish a special entertainment precinct for the purpose of regulating noise from music being played at licensed premises.
  • If you enter into a section 66 (TORUM) agreement with TMR (and amend the local laws accordingly), you will be able to regulate, through local laws, footpath dining and roadside vending on the state-controlled roads nominated in the section 66 (TORUM) agreement. This gives you the ability to apply consistent rules to businesses in your local government (or lesser agreed) area, whether they are on state or local roads. It also means applicants only need to contact council when seeking approvals in their local area. For more information contact your local roads office.
  • Under the Liquor Act 1992, you can apply for a delegation which will allow designated officers to approve a liquor licence change of boundary for outdoor trade subject to certain restrictions. This gives you more control to make decisions in line with your local economic development plans, and can reduce approval times for businesses by up to 2 weeks. For more information, contact the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation on 1300 072 322 or email OLGRlicensing@justice.qld.gov.au.

A good first step is to work with local businesses and residents to pinpoint 1 or more places in your town where outdoor trade is appropriate and businesses are keen.

Then, focusing on that location, you could consider these steps:

  1. Evaluate whether you have regulation in place that inhibits outdoor trade unnecessarily, for example, local laws, planning scheme provisions, or policies and procedures. You should also consider your administration practices, as this is often a source of additional compliance that may not be adding value. Talking to local businesses will help you find out about their compliance pain points.
  2. Think about how you could reduce this compliance burden, for example, by adopting or updating relevant policies and activation plans and simplifying practices, digitising administration and automating activities. The Queensland Government is available to assist with this—contact your regional Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DSDILGP) office to get started.
  3. Most Queensland councils are members of the Small Business Friendly program. You may like to discuss options for tackling identified barriers with your peers in the Placemaking Community of Practice—which provides a space for councils to share learnings about what works and discuss challenges.
  • You may wish to review the application and licensing fees that a business looking to set up outdoor trade would need to pay your council. This includes considering the total fees payable, which can have a big impact on a small business. Could fees be reduced so that they do not create any disincentives to local businesses?
  • Review your internal processes and consider if you can make them more efficient.

Establishing a formal Outdoor Trade Activation Area

Once you have heard from your local community and assessed proposed outdoor trade locations for safety and suitability, and compatibility with human rights, you may like to formally establish an Outdoor Trade Activation Area (OTAA).

A benefit of establishing a formal OTAA is that it can be easier and quicker for local businesses to gain relevant approvals from both council and Queensland Government, as well as having Queensland Government support to assist in identifying opportunities for you and your local community. For example, where a formal OTAA has been established through consultation and agreement with TMR, any approvals for on-street dining within the OTAA will be managed by the local government administering the OTAA.

Developing criteria for your OTAA plan

Criteria for an appropriate OTAA could include:

  • must not be in an environmental zone
  • must not be in a place of First Nations heritage significance identified in a local environmental plan
  • must not restrict vehicular or pedestrian access to or from, or entry to a building on, the land on which the outdoor trading activation area is located
  • must not impede pedestrian traffic along the footpath
  • must not be in traffic operating lanes or clear zones for the road where relevant
  • must not create driver distraction hazards such as bright lights, loud noises, screens displaying moving images, or changing content
  • must not obstruct or require relocation of bus stops, cycleways, and other transport infrastructure (unless agreed in writing by the infrastructure owner or service provider)
  • must have appropriate insurance and indemnities
  • must, at the end of the use, be restored to the condition in which it was before the commencement of the use so far as reasonably practicable.

Consider these actions to make sure your OTAA will benefit local businesses

  • Ensure that you engage with local businesses to help identify what will work for them, council and the community.
  • Publicly identify a suitable location through council plans or strategies, for example, your outdoor dining/trade policy, footpath activation plan or place management plan.
  • Review your internal processes to find ways to streamline council approvals, administration and compliance practices in identified OTAAs, for example by fast tracking applications and simplifying compliance requirements—fast-tracking can save businesses time (and therefore money) and lets them spend more time on their business. Reducing administration can also save your council time and money.
  • Provide information about the OTAA to local businesses and on your website. This helps businesses identify where they can operate outdoors and helps them understand licensing requirements.

Assessing locations when establishing an OTAA

For any areas proposed within the boundary of a state-controlled road, early and ongoing engagement with the local office of TMR is required to identify OTAA suitability based on road safety factors, including but not limited to the speed environment and road geometry.

Consultation with TMR will provide an opportunity to assess possible safety risks to road users and patrons. It also allows any required mitigation measures (for example, barriers, bollards and signage) to be incorporated into the development requirements as obligations.

Make sure your OTAA protects our cultural heritage. Any designation of or development on an OTAA is subject to consideration of the State interest for cultural heritage under the State Planning Policy. If there is to be development on a State or local heritage place, approval is required under the Planning Act 2016 or the Queensland Heritage Act 1992. Local heritage places are protected by you as the council. Places on the Queensland Heritage Register are protected by the Queensland Government.

You should also consider your powers and obligations in relation to environmental nuisance and noise standards under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act). The EP Act provides you with the flexibility to manage environmental nuisance in your local area and to make noise standards for your area.

Complaints in relation to environmental nuisance and noise from outdoor trade would generally be referred to the relevant local government to address and the OTAA plan should include how any complaints regarding environmental nuisance and noise will be managed.

In some cases, it may be necessary to refer a noise complaint to another agency—see the noise factsheet (PDF, 221KB) developed by the Queensland Government to assist local councils, residents and businesses to understand how noise is intended to be managed for our communities.

You must comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 as it applies to public footpaths and walkways. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides more information on obligations and on how to document decision-making where accessibility requirements cannot be met.

Read more about access and inclusion.

Engage and promote locally

Engaging effectively and building positive relationships with local business and community stakeholders will help you understand what local businesses and communities would like to achieve from outdoor trade. It will also help you identify the strengths and opportunities of different places, organisations and your local community.

This increases the likelihood that your outdoor trade activation activities will be a success.

Councils are well placed to lead this consultation as you are deeply connected to your local community.

Identify stakeholders who could be affected by OTAAs or outdoor trading initiatives, including businesses directly affected and their clients, customers, and suppliers. The following stakeholders could be considered:

  • your local chamber of commerce—search the Business Chamber Queensland website for contact details
  • local tourism and business associations
  • businesses
  • community groups
  • relevant Queensland Government agencies.

Methods may include:

  • visiting and talking with local businesses
  • online surveys
  • workshops with businesses and the community
  • exhibition of potential OTAAs for comment.

Establish tailored engagement and communication strategies ensuring:

  • culturally appropriate and respectful communication for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
  • accessibility for people with disability
  • appropriate approaches for engaging with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (including engagement with local community leaders).

Consider how privacy of stakeholders' personal and business data will be maintained.

You should capture stakeholder feedback about opportunities as well as concerns or impediments and share any learnings transparently.

Think about these questions:

  • Are businesses interested in developing new outdoor trade opportunities or expanding existing areas?
  • Does the community want new or expanded outdoor trade?
  • Are there road safety risks and mitigation measures that need to be agreed with the relevant road authority?
  • Will other factors such as the need for a future footpath or roadworks in the area impact on potential outdoor trading sites?
  • How can an outdoor trade area or initiative ensure fairness of access to opportunity to trade?
  • Will there be any amenity impacts on the surrounding area, for example, noise and lighting? Are there any other potential impacts on adjacent businesses and residents?
  • Are local businesses accessible and inclusive?

It may be helpful to capture details about how local businesses work to help determine what kind of outdoor trade activation activity may work best. Consider things like:

  • opening hours
  • peak trading times (during the day and year)
  • customer base—number of customers, use of reservations and walk-ins
  • foot traffic
  • main delivery times
  • access needs for customers, staff, deliveries, waste removal
  • any upcoming or special events.

Keep businesses and the community informed as you work to develop an OTAA or outdoor trading initiative. Consider these tips:

  • set out the purpose, goals, strategy and constraints of the initiative clearly
  • inform businesses of timeframes and upcoming changes in advance so they can plan ahead
  • provide regular updates to local businesses through newsletters, emails and face-to-face liaison
  • create a key messages document covering why the initiative is being undertaken, what will be happening and in what timeframe, to ensure consistency of communication
  • provide a feedback mechanism to allow stakeholders to provide feedback on their ideas or concerns, identify learnings and take any reasonable action.

Consider how you will promote your activation area or initiative to both businesses and the public. Some key ideas to consider include:

  • signage to show the public that the initiative is happening
  • special events to bring visitors to the area
  • support and encouragement of pop-up businesses
  • promotion of accessibility features broadens participation to a larger customer base
  • accessible signage and communication, including in Easy English (and translated materials in languages relevant to the local community)
  • identifying social media and other online marketing and communication opportunities.

You may be able to collaborate with local business associations and empower small businesses to work with each other and council to develop opportunities, such as joint events to attract customers to an outdoor trade area.

Design and operate outdoor trade areas

Trading outdoors means businesses are trading in a less controlled environment than if they were inside a building. A risk assessment and management plan is recommended for any outdoor trade areas. This does not need to be complicated but should address any reasonably foreseeable risks.

Safety for customers, staff and community members is a priority in any business location, and you must take reasonable measures to prevent the risk of injury to those using the area.

  • Consult with TMR about site selection and design to allow assessment and mitigation of road safety risks for road users and patrons if located on or adjacent to a state-controlled road.
  • Review information on activities and structures in the road corridor.
  • Ensure all building works and built structures comply with the required building laws, codes and standards.
  • Ensure outdoor activation areas are set up to allow emergency services to quickly access the area.
  • Ensure evacuation routes from the outdoor activation area are clear, including routes from adjacent buildings.
  • Consider how your OTAA may be affected by a severe storm, flood or fire. Review the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website to find out more.
  • Providing shade in public places integrates sun protection with improved functionality, use and enjoyment of community spaces. Learn more about sun safety in outdoor settings.
  • Review your obligations for managing environmental nuisance such as offensive odour, dust and light, and specific local government powers and obligations in relation to noise regulation and noise standards.
  • Learn about waste, recycling and litter, including Queensland Government waste reduction initiatives.
  • Ensure there will be adequate toilet facilities to meet any increased demand.
  • It is important to ensure that all pedestrians can safely access streets and footpaths. Review information on pedestrian access and standards.
  • You must also consider the design and navigation to ensure disability-inclusive pathways, for example, for the vision impaired. Review information on access to premises from the Australian Human Rights Commission and learn more about building access standards for people with a disability to help you keep the pathways safe and free for all users.
  • If creating any temporary infrastructure to support outdoor trade, ensure accessibility and universal design is built-in, including
    • sufficient seating
    • wide footpaths
    • flush entryways
    • slip resistant surfaces
    • space for wheelchair-users to rest and turn
    • low tables and counters.

    A universal design approach helps local businesses to attract a broader customer base.
  • Consider if your outdoor space could create any access barriers and how these could be addressed. Examples of barriers could include
    • bright lights and loud sounds
    • lack of or inaccessible pathways
    • tables and chairs against a building, which may create obstacles for the vision impaired
    • lack of accessibility features on outdoor signage, art or exhibits
    • lack of adjacent accessible parking or accessible restrooms
    • covered benches that do not allow for a wheelchair or other mobility device.

You must ensure, when designing and implementing your strategy to activate outdoor trade, that you give proper consideration to human rights and that your decisions do not unreasonably limit the human rights of individuals. This is an obligation under the Human Rights Act 2019 (HR Act).

For example, you may be considering appropriate locations for an outdoor trade area. While one location has many attractive features, you are aware that an outdoor trade area will result in increased traffic, noise or other disturbances for local residents. This may engage those residents' human rights by interfering with their peaceful enjoyment of their property, which is protected under section 24 of the HR Act. You will need to consider whether this impact on the human rights of local residents is justified before deciding whether to locate the outdoor trade area in that location. This includes:

  • considering any reasonable alternatives
  • balancing the benefits of situating the outdoor trade area in that location against the interference with residents' human rights.

Learn more about complying with your obligations under the HR Act.

Queensland Government support for outdoor activation

Support for councils

  • Connect with your regional DSDILGP office for advice and support.
  • The 2021–24 Works for Queensland Program supports regional councils to undertake job-creating maintenance and minor infrastructure projects. This can be used for projects that help enable and encourage businesses that want to trade outdoors, such as beautification of streetscapes and outdoor areas, and enhanced public safety and security, for example, through lighting upgrades.
  • The Small Business Friendly program aims to reduce barriers between large organisations and small businesses and to enhance the operating environment for small businesses
    • The Placemaking Community of Practice established under the Small Business Friendly program facilitates networking and information sharing between member councils on placemaking issues, including outdoor trade, to help minimise duplication of effort and allow councils to learn from others' experiences. Contact the Office of the Queensland Small Business Commissioner to learn more.
  • If you have an idea for activating and maximising use of outdoor spaces at your local TAFE campus, you can contact our Customer Centre on 1300 654 687 to get in touch with your local regional office.

Support for small businesses

Share information about Queensland Government small business support with your local small businesses to help them expand into outdoor trade.

Small businesses can learn more about trading outdoors in Queensland on the Business Queensland website.

Queensland Outdoor Activation Action Plan

The Queensland Government has released the Outdoor Activation Action Plan to make it easier for councils and businesses to activate outdoor trade. Key actions include:

  • supporting local governments to apply for delegations which allow designated officers to approve a liquor licence change of boundary for outdoor trade subject to certain restrictions
  • working with local governments to explore the establishment of OTAAs
  • improving guidance and support to businesses operating in an OTAA
  • continuing to deliver and expand Queensland's Business Launchpad to cut red tape for business
  • providing access to mentoring for businesses that are getting ready to trade outdoors.

Read the Outdoor Activation Action Plan for more details.

Also consider...

  • Review free placemaking resources and guides from the Placemaking.Education platform, which provide insights into the principles and practice of placemaking.
  • Review free resources from Project for Public Spaces on how to understand and improve public spaces in your community.
  • Learn about PlacemakingX—a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive and beloved communities.
  • Review Town Team Movement resources dedicated to helping Town Teams and local governments to create stronger communities and better places.
  • Learn about Place Leaders, a member organisation for the promotion of leadership among place planners, managers, shapers and makers working in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last updated 5 April 2023

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