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Venues react to Victoria’s ‘crippling’ recovery roadmap

Victoria’s roadmap to reopening has been laid out, with Stage Four lockdowns for metropolitan Melbourne to remain in place for two more weeks, and venues closed until late October at the earliest.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap moves Victoria from stages to steps, which he said will give Victorians “a long-term plan for out path out of restrictions and into COVID normal”.

He said: “The steps will be guided by dates and the data. That means if we are on track to take a step forward, we can do so confidently.”

In the first step of the Government’s roadmap, nothing changes for the state’s hospitality venues, with takeaway and delivery services being the only options available for revenue.

The second step will take place on 13 September and will see the removal of the curfew, however nothing changes again for hospitality venues, with takeaway and delivery only being allowed.

It is the third step that will offer some respite for venues operators with the roadmap allowing “predominantly outdoor seated service, group limit of 10 and density limits”.

The roadmap currently stipulates that this third step will happen after 26 October and when the state-wide, daily average number of cases in the previous 14 days is less than five and there has been a state-wide total of less than five cases with an unknown source in the last 14 days.

The roadmap states: “The time period must pass and the number of cases must be low enough to move to the next step. This is a trigger point for public health review.”

The move from step three to the last step will happen on 23 November, as long as there has been no new cases for 14 days across the state.

This step would see indoor openings for venues with group limits of 20 seated and a cap on 50 patrons, with outdoor dining service subject to density quotient.

Zara Madrusan, Director of the Made in the Shade Group, told Bars and Clubs that while the roadmap is not entirely surprising it “is crippling” and that it leaves the industry in desperate need of more financial support.

“Hospitality businesses will not survive this without some serious action – rent reductions, JobKeeper to remain at $1500 per fortnight until we can reopen our venues in a substantial capacity, (currently this reduction doesn’t cater to the unique situation Victoria is in), a commitment from local council and liquor licensing to allow for use of outdoor spaces in which to trade without endless red tape,” Madrusan said.

She added: “We are not entirely surprised, but utterly devastated by the announcement.

“At this stage, we cannot be confident of anything. If we don’t open until Christmas, we will have been closed for the best part of a year. There’s only so much of this we will be able to survive. We are not disposable – this country needs hospitality and tourism.”

Huw Griffiths, Co-Owner of Union Electric, also put the timeframe into perspective.

“It’s a bit overwhelming thinking about that fact that we’ve lost half of the year,” he told Bars and Clubs.

“It’s just incredible to think that by the time it’s finished, it’s going to be 15 weeks plus that we’ve been in lock down and not been able to trade.

“I think the only glimmer of light at the end of the long dark tunnel is the fact that we are moving towards eliminating as many cases as we can and hopefully, being able to open the borders sooner will certainly help Melbourne’s hospitality industry.”

He agreed with Madrusan that tourism will be crucial to recovery.

“We’d love to see a lot of travel from places like Sydney and Queensland and WA again. We used to really enjoy people visiting from Sydney. In the city especially – that whole dinner and a show followed by a cocktail or starting with a cocktail, that was really important to us. And I think the only way we can get to that sooner is by eliminating cases altogether.

“We just want it done as quick as possible – if it means a little bit more pain now, for the sake of being able to open properly in six to eight weeks rather than this dragging out for another six months, I’m happy to take it.”

He added: “I think the next thing we’d like to see is some more chat about what’s going to happen to support hospitality businesses on the other side of this, and how are we going to promote Melbourne?”

Luke Whearty, Co-Owner of Byrdi, told Bars and Clubs he and the team are just doing what they can now, in the face of the roadmap.

“I’m a big believer in not letting things that are out of your control stress you out,” he said.

“We are just going to do what we have been doing to keep our business afloat and do everything that is in our power and aim to stay positive.

“I’m an eternal optimist so always try to find the silver lining where I can which right now is being able to spend more time with my family and work on other creative outlets and potential revenue streams for our business.”

Madrusan also said the trade can continue doing what it’s doing to support Melbourne, asking venues to “keep hosting events and pop ups in our name, such as the Maybe Mae and Alba Bar and Deli events.”

She added: “Keep buying bottled cocktails, books, gift vouchers, whatever you can that can be shipped nationally.

“Don’t forget about us, just because you’re on a path back to normality. We need the whole country to rally for one of its favourite cities. We need to stand together.”

Bars and Clubs has put together a story about how you can support bars in Melbourne.

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