Home – New Forums Starting your journey Starting a cafe from scratch in Canberra (ACT)

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  • #983231
    SimonJ
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    Hi,

    I want to start a Cafe in Canberra ( in Gowrie to be precise) and have a few concerns. I have already started a company, registered ABN, ACN, GST, PAYG etc. I know I have to register a food business at the Department of Health – so I already have a project and documents for them. The building has a development approval (for a cafe/restaurant) and building approval given to the owner (I will take the lease soon).

    My concern is with the development approval from the local council – I only recently moved to Canberra and don’t really understand how things work here, but there seems to be one common council for all the suburbs which is Canberra Connect. I went there the other day and there was absolutely no one there to help me out – they only deal with basic problems, not appliable to my situation. What I would like to know is: Do I need to get a development approval to run a cafe in Canberra just like in fe. Sydney. If yes, how long it might take? Who deals with the opening hours, number of people allowed inside etc? I cant put a finger on it and would like to get some inside from you.

    Thanks in advance,

    Simon

    #1141242
    sam_leader
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    Hi Simon,

    Welcome to Flying Solo’s forums. It looks as if you’ve been very thorough so far and it must be frustrating to have the last piece of information holding you back.

    Did you read this post? There are some cafe-specific links in there, which may prove useful.

    Best of luck.

    Sam

    #1141243
    SimonJ
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    Yes, I’ve read all of them, those topics cover all the other states but not the ACT.

    Anyone who started his/her cafe in the ACT and has the answers?

    #1141244
    Anonymous
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    There are two main departments you deal with in canberra, the health protection service for your food licence who are ok, and the dep of regulatory services who are a nightmare. Let me know if u want some tips

    #1141245
    SimonJ
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    Kurt: Part of my cafe has alfresco dining area which belongs to the owner of the building and is not public area. Shop front on the other hand is public land (at least parts of the pavement). Do I have to pay any fees (outside cafe?) for the alfresco area in the back that belongs to the owner of the building? From my understanding I only have to pay if I want to use public space, but correct me if I am wrong. How long does the process take from lodging to acceptance? How costly it is? Thanks for your answers.

    #1141246
    Peter Watson
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    Hi Simon,

    I can’t help you out with your concern, but on a side note, have you ever considered buying an already established Cafe? Just a thought……

    #1141247
    Anonymous
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    SimonJ, post: 170618 wrote:
    Kurt: Part of my cafe has alfresco dining area which belongs to the owner of the building and is not public area. Shop front on the other hand is public land (at least parts of the pavement). Do I have to pay any fees (outside cafe?) for the alfresco area in the back that belongs to the owner of the building? From my understanding I only have to pay if I want to use public space, but correct me if I am wrong. How long does the process take from lodging to acceptance? How costly it is? Thanks for your answers.

    Hey Simon, (for the outdoor area) yes you must pay an annual rental fee to the department of regulatory services. (about $1000 per year for the space for 15-20 tables). You will need 20 million dollars public liability insurance and the department listed as an interested party on the policy. You will need to email it to them. You also need to supply a plan of the outdoor area showing where the tables and everything will be, (hand drawn is fine). You cannot put any permanent structure on the public land. So everything must come in at night. (even if you are no going to bring it in every night, say that you are, or you need another torturous application). They will then do an inspection and measure to see if it fits all their guidelines, (there are many), and they will give you an outdoor license for a certain amount of people. They will inspect a couple of time over the next 6 months to see if you are complying, if you are then they will leave you alone, (unless you get a complaint).

    Canberra is different to other states. There are more bureaucrats than business owners in Canberra. If you do not bother to get the outdoor licence then they will find you. If you were in Sydney I would say do not bother and just wait until they ask, but in Canberra, you wont make it through a month. They are slow to fine down there though, so if you get caught without it then they will just tell you to remove the chairs until you get the permit. Your choice.

    Another unexpected potential nightmare down there can be with ACTEW AGL, the water and sewage company. Your grease trap must meet certain requirements. DO NOT SIGN A LEASE until you are certain that it complies. Actew will not budge and you will be stuck paying rent without a C of O. I know it should be the landlords responsibility but some of the landlords there don’t play by the rules. A few Greek families own most of the commercial property and basically do as they please. Pay your rent and do not ask for anything and you will be fine.

    So, not sure if you are aware. But also for you C of O you will need other certifications such as your gas etc. This is where a lot of people fall short because they get everything all fired up and realise that the equipment does not meet the most current compliance standards. This is a big problem with buying one of the old ones in Canberra. The rules have changed drastically across all areas of the industry. So the old owner will just keep renewing his licences and registrations. However when a new guy comes in he must get it inspected, which means he must bring it up to the current standard. This is often unachievable without a full re-fitout.

    Bottom line, Canberra is a Royal Pain in the You Know What when it comes to inspections and compliance. The positive though that there is a very high disposable income and virtually no other businesses use successful online marketing. You can dominate the online scene with minimal effort and zero outlay. Keywords such as “gowrie food”, “Tuggeranong Coffee” etc are yours for the taking. Even the more competitivekeywords are not difficult to dominate, “canberra restaurant”, etc.

    I am not sure if self promoting is the done thing or not, but I am writing a book on all this that will be available in a little over a month. I don’t care if you buy it, I am only telling you because it will help you a lot! There is nothing else around the same as it, it is about purchasing, staffing and systematizing and basically how to work “on your business and not in it”…It’s the only way to succeed.

    Anyway mate, best of luck.

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