Enlisting the help of Sydney designer Ralph Rembel, the business proposed to replace the white umbrellas that had long been a fixture with glossier overhead designs, as well as upgrade the bar and outdoor dining area.
“We wanted people to be wandering down Circular Quay and be seeing the theatre of hospitality,” Mr Thompson said.
It is the first time the property has gone to tender since the restaurant won it in 1987.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said the tender process was commenced in November in anticipation of the restaurant’s lease expiring in February.
“The government received extremely competitive bids and is currently finalising the new lease for the site,” the spokesperson said, adding that independent advisers were appointed to oversee the process.
“In acknowledgement of the impact of COVID-19, the current tenant has been provided with 11 months’ notice allowing them to trade until 31 March 2021 at a reduced rate.”
Mr Thompson’s announcement on social media over the weekend prompted an outpouring of sadness from customers.
“It’s Sydney’s loss. Such a wonderful place to spend a lazy summer afternoon with friends,” Facebook user Clancy McDowell wrote.
Mr Thompson, who has asked people to contact Property NSW acting CEO Sam Romaniuk in protest, said the support shown to the business by the general public was “overwhelming”.
The pandemic has been crippling for the hospitality and tourism industry, with many operators forced to find new ways to adapt to the depleted market to survive. The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar has been among food and beverage businesses turning to home delivery to cater for nearby residents.
Before the recent downturn, Mr Thompson said the business had been growing nearly nine per cent every year over the past five years.
A Change.org petition to save the business from being removed has begun, amassing more than 1300 signatures as of Monday night.
Angus Thompson is an Urban Affairs reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.