It is always a happy coincidence when consumer tastes, business interests and government policy come together. And it happens rarely enough that it has to be appreciated when it comes along. This is exactly what we have in the case of outdoor dining in Hong Kong. As we reported yesterday, the government is receiving and approving dozens of applications from restaurants to set up tables outside, and businesses see the trend continuing - if for no other reason than that having alfresco dining can bring in 20 per cent more business. Having an easy procedure for licensing outdoor dining might seem a matter of course in a city spoiled for beautiful waterfront areas. But that hasn't always been the case. For years restaurateurs were forced to jump through a host of departmental hoops to bring their diners the joy of a meal with a view. It took Sars and a new-found preference for dining outdoors, as well as a downturn in economic fortunes, for the government to decide to cut the red tape. Now that the scheme has proven so popular, there can be no doubt it made the right decision. More outdoor dining should now be pursued in parallel with substantial pedestrianisation in popular areas and the cleaning up of the air, both of which would make the experience so much more pleasant and be a draw to locals and tourists alike. If planners can find ways of giving people better access to our stunning harbour views, so much the better. The Poor Man's Nightclub bazaar has been brought back to Sheung Wan. Developers have set their sights on reviving areas like Sai Kung, with alfresco dining to figure prominently. The Citizens Party is holding a conference this week on planning for outlying islands' development. On Hong Kong island, the sleepy area around Star Street in Wan Chai has seen a revival as the result of some creative thinking, and other areas such as North Point are waiting for the same treatment. With more input from the public about what they want, Hong Kong could be heading for a renaissance in its restaurant and entertainment scene. In other cities where similar development has taken place in long-forgotten or depressed areas, business and government support have been crucial - and the turnaround in fortunes has been stunning. While it is certainly premature to call a few dozen new alfresco dining licences the beginning of any sort of cultural rebirth, it does signal a welcome change in attitudes. With incrementally more of the same, we could do more than just lift the spirits of some diners and a few restaurant owners. In one of our tourism board's campaigns, Hong Kong is dubbed the City of Life. Now, perhaps, is our chance to prove it.