For many it has been the longest four months ever, but finally Melbourne’s bars are reopening after Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews gave the green light for bars to open from 11.59pm tonight.
There are still restrictions in place around capacity and spacing with only 20 patrons allowed inside venues and up to 50 in outdoor areas, subject to spacing capacity. But that’s 20 more people than were allowed yesterday and over the past four months, and it is a long-awaited step in the right direction.
Speaking yesterday, the Premier said: “Today I can confirm what we’ve long waited for: Melbourne will move out of lockdown and into the Third Step.
“Under the Third Step, and from 11:59pm on Tuesday, Melbourne will move from ‘stay home’ to ‘stay safe’, with no more restrictions on the reasons to leave home.
“Under the Third Step, Melbourne’s cafes, restaurants and pubs can reopen. Outdoors with a limit of up to 50, indoors up to 20. Density limits, record keeping and COVIDSafe Plans also apply.”
Looking ahead, he added: “From 8 November, and if we can continue driving case numbers down, the 25km limit will come off and Melbourne will be able to meet regional Victoria at the same level. That means the same eased restrictions that apply to regional Victoria will also apply to Melbourne.
“The capacity of pubs and restaurants will increase, with up to 40 inside and 70 outside.
“We want to reach COVID Normal by Christmas and right now, we’re on track to do that.
“It’s why we’ve got to keep going – all of us. Understanding that even though restrictions may ease, our personal responsibility in all this doesn’t.”
The news has been warmly greeted by the city’s bar owners and operators, with Speakeasy Group’s Sven Almenning telling Bars and Clubs: “As soon we can open we’ll be throwing our doors open. The limitations on distancing and capacity numbers will make it near impossible to make any profit, but at least it will be a moral boost for our teams to be back in venues and back at work.
“In fact we are opening Nick and Nora’s for one hour of power from 11:59pm Tuesday to 1am Wednesday,” and he said to the people of Melbourne, “Come on in! We’re open and we’re excited to have you back. Ditch the couch and your TV shows for a bit and enjoy life as it’s starting to regain its normalcy and freedom.”
Black Pearl Director, Tash Conte, told Bars and Clubs: “Today is filled with an intense energy in the air. Victoria has been stoic, a weight has been lifted and we are soldiering on – with care of course.”
She added: “We will be opening our doors from tomorrow and look forward to serving our loyal and patient guests and friends who have maintained our survival through this pandemic, through our take away and delivery service.
“We will continue to offer our take away while we return to our new style of service in Black Pearl and private Attic bookings.”
Assessing how the last four months has been, Tash said: “Victoria was on her knees. Hospitality has suffered so much, we are in the people business and being apart for 119 days was extremely difficult on us all.”
But looking positively ahead, she said: “This is the start to rebuilding our teams and businesses and using all the upskills we acquired.
“It’s like the first day we opened all over again.”
The news was also welcomed by Zara Madrusan at Made in the Shade group, who told Bars and Clubs: “We are of course delighted to put a date to reopening. The announcement was like the first ray of sunshine after a tsunami.
“It’s been a really dark seven months for this city, and we play a big role in bringing Melbourne back to life. It’s going to be a lot of work, with little pay off whilst strict restrictions remain in place, but we’re ready for it.”
Made in the Shade is reopening The Everleigh, Heartbreaker & Connie’s Pizza and Bar Margaux on Thursday, 5 November, with each taking bookings and accepting walk-ins if not fully booked.
Zara added: “To serve is an utter honour and a pleasure. The extent of COVID-19’s impact on this industry will not be fully appreciated for months, perhaps even years to come.
“Being put in a position to serve again after all this, whilst the city is still navigating such change, is a huge responsibility. Hospitality will play a significant role in the recovery, in uniting people who have been isolated and in reinvigorating Melbourne.”
Takeaways and deliveries will still be happening at The Everleigh, Connie’s and Heartbreaker and Zara told Bars and Clubs: “With restrictions in place we’ll continue to rely on delivery/takeaway offerings and reaching people in their own homes with events such as virtual cocktail classes.
“For those looking to support the industry in getting back on its feet, make reservations and get out and about if you can. Be understanding of the changes in house and how venues are adapting to make the best of current rules. Be gracious and kind to staff, share positive reviews, and continue to order in if the pocket allows.
“We all deserve to raise a glass together, and we can’t wait to facilitate the reunion.”
Last week Bars and Clubs reported that Whisky and Alement has also set November 5 as its reopening date.