NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet agreed, saying about 40 per cent of the public service was usually stationed in the city, with the proportion presently sitting around 10 per cent.
He said he didn’t want people forced back, but wanted to create an environment that encouraged workers to return.
“If the public sector can get it right then I think the private sector will follow,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The political message needs to be the city is safe, the city is safe as a suburb is.”
The government has created a multi-agency taskforce, co-chaired by Mr Stokes and Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, with the goal of relaxing outdoor drinking and dining regulations to ease pressure on the hospitality sector and help avoid COVID-19 clusters originating from inside venues.
Mr Dominello told the Herald he wanted to create a system that would see al fresco applications approved within days, as well as greater use of rooftops for venues, and a reasonable tolerance from residents of noise from venues.
The Rocks is set to be the first area transformed into an outdoor hospitality destination, while the City of Sydney would be potentially chosen to champion a new regulatory environment that makes it easier for venues to operate on inner-city streetscapes.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore told the summit the city wanted to set up outdoor areas, such as Martin Place, for live performances, and pay musicians to perform in bars and other venues.
“The bars have really suffered, they can’t afford to pay musicians, we can,” Cr Moore said.
“We want to have a cultural, al fresco, outdoor summer; a re-invigoration of our beautiful Sydney.”
Outside the summit, Merivale hospitality group head Justin Hemmes said the biggest obstacle for the industry to overcome was the perception that the city was a dangerous place to visit.
Hospitality businesses want to see a halving of the 4-square-metre rule to allow venues to operate at 2-square-metres per customer, with Mr Perrottet telling the audience the government was hoping to achieve that.
“Our venues are safe, people need to know that,” Mr Hemmes said.
“We need to get people back into the city, back at work.”
Angus Thompson is an Urban Affairs reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.