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Operators react to Melbourne restrictions

Melbourne is heading into Stage Four COVID-19 restrictions, as it bids to slow and contain the spread of the virus through the city and the rest of the state, write Andy Young and Brydie Allen.

Bars and Clubs has reported that there is confusion over the directives from Government about what bars can and can’t do in Stage Four.

Sven Almenning of Speakeasy Group told Bars and Clubs that his group was intending to carry on in its ‘new normal’.

“We’ve started doing deliveries, but we did not do it the first time round, for loads of reasons, but we are doing it now,” Almenning said.

He added that it was “100 per cent” his understanding that they can continue deliveries. “I’ve spoken to the various industry bodies on that, and delivery 100 per cent you can still do.”

That clarification on cafes, restaurants or bars is crucial, with Zara Madrusan telling Bars and Clubs: “It looks like bar delivery/takeaway service are over. It appears we will still be able to manufacture and sell bottled cocktails through The Everleigh Bottling Co., via our online store, and Bar Margaux will be able to continue delivering drinks alongside our food delivery service, operating predominantly as a restaurant.”

That ties in with the messaging from AHA Victoria, who told Bars and Clubs: “It is our firm understanding that pubs and hotels that have restaurants/bistros/cafes as part of their operations are permitted to continue providing take away and home delivery in Stage Four restrictions.”

At Byrdi, Co-owner Luke Whearty said they were still working out what Stage Four would mean to their business. However, he told Bars and Clubs that the current thinking was that it would see similar operations to Stage Three, when they moved everything online with an online shop.

“At the moment the Stage Four restrictions are still very new and announcements are being made daily so we are still working out what it all means for us as a business,” Whearty said.

“Once Stage Three was announced we moved everything online and opened up an online shop. This has been really well received and we have been really humbled by the response we’ve received.”

Despite all the confusion in the new changes, Whearty said he feels like the government is doing everything in their power to get through the pandemic. It’s people not following the rules designed to do this that is the problem.

Whearty said: “It’s a really tough time for a lot of people from varying industries however we aren’t going to get to the other side unless we follow the rules.”

Meanwhile for Union Electric, a bar that didn’t go down the online route and barely had a chance to open before the second lockdown because of its location, their biggest concerns remain people based.

Co-owner Huw Griffiths said: “This change means a few things to Union Electric as a business but the worries that keep us up at night tend to be the issues surrounding our crew. We’ve always been very proud of our team (which is sometimes more like a family), and having to effectively stand down everyone at the beginning of all this was very difficult.

“Now we are staring down a long dark tunnel with no real light at the end and it’s getting harder to keep what’s left of the team in good spirits. It’s especially difficult when you’re dealing with your own set of financial and emotional burdens all due to the current crisis and consequent ongoing shutdowns. It’s like waiting patiently and pretending to be happy while someone takes one swing after another at you.”

Griffiths said he feels for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, for taking responsibility for the behaviour of ‘a few gullible fools.’ But he also called on the government in general to step up for hospitality businesses in the state, by not only having more clear communication, but also more targeted support with mortgages, leases, and grants.

He said: “At the moment we only know that we are in lockdown for another six weeks. What happens then? What is the real goal? Are we expecting to go back to a 4m square rule? Should we be looking for a new career?”

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