From yesterday, regional Victorian pubs can restart on-premise trading, with patronage to be kept largely outdoors.

Premier Dan Andrews made a surprise announcement on Tuesday, stating that regional Victoria had reached the target for the ‘third step’ in the state’s roadmap to a Covid Normal reopening, and giving the hospitality industry a 36-hour notice that they could reopen.

“Having reached a 14-day average of 3.6 and with no mystery cases, regional Victoria has reached the necessary ‘trigger point’ in our roadmap – meaning our public health experts have advised that we can take this next step.”

For hospitality, the move to the third step means a return of on-premise trading, albeit with a focus on outdoor spaces. It does differ to the original guidelines of the third step however, as some indoor patronage has been allowed.

Venues can trade with a cap of 50 seated patrons outdoors, and an updated 2sqm density limit in place. Indoors, venues can host a maximum of 10 seated customers per space – with up to two spaces per venue –in line with the existing  4sqm density rule. Tables must be spaced at least 1.5m apart, cleaned after every customer and the details of all patrons must be kept.

“These arrangements will also pave the way for Melbourne’s return to dining – for when we too can safely take that next step,” stated Premier Andrews.

AHA Vic has welcomed the reopening of regional pubs, and AHA Vic president David Canny has urged publicans to keep up the dialogue with politicians to allow pubs across the state to reopen further.

Regional Victorian publicans have acted quickly to reopen, with The Cally Hotel in Warrnambool having opened its doors at 7:30am yesterday morning.

“Our staff are pumped to re-open and our customers will be equally excited.  The restrictions are difficult, however, I am optimistic that things will change  quickly – just five days ago it was looking like outdoor only,” stated Cally Hotel owner Lucas Reid.

Reid applauded the lobbying efforts of AHA Vic to open, and hoped that this ‘third step’ would show the Government and public that pubs could trade safely in current conditions.

“The AHA (Vic) team have done a fabulous job for us.  If we trade following all the guidelines and show again we are COVID Safe then restrictions will gradually be lifted. The industry as a whole will need the restrictions to lift sooner rather than later. Outdoor dining for us in Victoria is usually only profitable if it is an extension of our inside offering.”

Dan Cronin, owner of the Western Hotel in Ballarat agreed, hoping that the Andrews Government would be more flexible and responsive with its roadmap as industry proves it can trade in a COVID safe manner.

“We are all excited by the news delivered by the Victorian Government and appreciative that it is less restrictive than first indicated through the roadmap. We are hopeful to continue with low numbers in regional Victoria and that the government will continue to listen to our industry and adjust the roadmap accordingly, helping businesses get back on their feet quicker.”

Metro Melbourne remains under Stage 4 restrictions.

Image: Western Hotel Ballarat (Facebook)

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