Outdoor dining fees will be slashed in half under an ACT government plan to support businesses hit hard by the summer's unprecedented weather events.
The government will also offer free 12-month permits to cafes, restaurants and bars keen to experiment with alfresco dining, as it attempts to re-energise the local economy heading into the cooler months.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the measure was a practical way for the government to support the hospitality sector as it recovers from recent extreme weather events.
While the ACT has been spared from fires in its borders, the local economy has been suffocated by the bushfire smoke which blanketed Canberra for much of the past month.
"The past few weeks have been tough for our city as people have had to stay indoors and cancel holidays, putting a strain on small local businesses," he said.
Mr Barr put forward the idea during a roundtable meeting with local tourism industry leaders on Friday.
Cafes, restaurants and bars have to apply to Access Canberra for a permit to trade on public land outside their premise.
The cost of an outdoor dining permit is calculated per square metre, with the price depending on the venue's location.
Venues in "primary areas" - which includes parts of Civic, and Manuka and Kingston shopping precincts - pay the highest rate.
A venue in one of those areas, which has 20 square metres of outdoor dining space, will save $600 a year under the new fee structure, according to the government.
The 50 per cent discount will apply to existing permit holders from next month.
Venues which apply for a new outdoor dining permit after February 1 will be eligible for the 12-month free trial. The government currently offers a one-month free trial to new applicants.
The government expects to take a $150,000 hit each year as a result of the new fees.
Bittersweet cafe owner Dan Rayner welcomed the move.
Mr Rayner said about half of his Kingston cafe's seating was outdoors, so the 50 per cent discount would "certainly take the pressure off".
Mr Rayner said the bushfire smoke had kept customers away in the past month.
To make matter's worse, umbrellas outside the cafe sustained damage during Monday's freak hailstorm.
"This has not been a normal summer," he said. "It's either been very smoky, very hot or Monday ... which was just something else."