As the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Victoria continues to fall, the Andrews’ Government is facing calls to bring forward its timeframes for easing restrictions in the state.

The Australian Hotels Association Victoria’s President David Canny said the sharp reduction in COVID cases warranted greater flexibility in the Government’s Hospitality Industry Restart Guidelines.

“Regional Victoria is leading the way and country pubs should be allowed to increase their patron capacities for indoor areas,” Canny said.

“Ten people for two indoor spaces should be increased to 20 people per enclosed space.

“This will pave the way for the safe opening of metro venues.”

The roadmap to recovery stipulates venues will be allowed to reopen, with restrictions, under the third step. This is now in place for regional Victoria, but metropolitan venues are still facing closure until late October.

Canny said AHA Vic is asking the government to revise its COVID roadmap modelling, so there is a better balance between lives affected and livelihoods lost.

“Our processes and procedures make us COVID Safe to open,” he said.

“We are, and have always been, strongly committed to the health and safety of our patrons and staff. We want to reassure Government that this is paramount in our operations. But we need to be able to operate in a financially viable way, much like others in the retail sector.

“The debt-cliff of Victoria’s 1,450 pubs and hotels cannot be walked away from. It continues to mount daily, along with anxiety and mental pressures.”

Canny added: “Our 52,000 staff are at home now without the stability of their careers, dealing with their daily costs of living and an unstable future.

“These are real situations for us and very real concerns for our staff. We fear we will lose them and their vast customer-service experience to other industries very soon if we cannot get back to operating in a financially viable way.

“Our country pubs are showing that we are COVID Safe to open. I’m appealing to the Government to rethink its roadmap modelling given the reduction of COVID-19 case numbers so that pubs and hotels survive.”

Australian Venue Co (AVC), is also calling on the Government to re-examine its policy regarding outdoor spaces, when Metropolitan areas move into step three.

AVC said it has started discussions with the innovative team at City of Melbourne about bringing dining spaces and socially safe beer garden pop-ups to rooftop parking lots, riverside terraces, iconic laneways and major CBD streets.

However, with news of blanket capacity restrictions for outdoor dining in regional Victoria this has cast doubt over the viability of these plans if metropolitan Melbourne is to follow the same capacity limitations.

CEO Paul Waterson said a crucial element to making the Government outdoor dining plan successful will be ability to have multiple outdoor spaces activated with capped capacity.

“Effectively the Government announced venues can have one outdoor space of 50 people per venue in regional Victoria. Such a restriction would fundamentally change the ability to activate the city at scale.

“After what has undeniably been the most challenging of times, to be able to get our staff back to work and do what we do best – serve Melbourne, is exciting. However, based on the current regional areas re-opening restrictions, Melbourne venues will need to be allowed increased, yet socially safe, capacities across multiple outdoor areas to make the concept viable.

“This summer will be like no other, so we want to bring the very best of our pubs to the streets and laneways across Melbourne. We are feeling positive to be working on these plans with City of Melbourne to create outdoor dining experiences for Melbournians to enjoy,” Waterson said.

The AVC said the concept will also celebrate all things ‘Melbourne’. Supporting local producers and suppliers, from food to craft beers, inspired dining experiences will be created in each venue.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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