Dining-in to reopen June 1

By Jackson Russell

While the public rejoices in the reopening of Victoria’s pubs, restaurants and cafes from June 1, some Mitchell Shire hospitality businesses aren’t convinced it will be worth it.

After hospitality was excluded from the initial announcement of relaxed COVID-19 restrictions two weeks ago, Premier Daniel Andrews announced Sunday that pubs, restaurants and cafes would be able to serve meals to up to 20 customers from June.

If the number of COVID-19 cases are limited in Victoria, the limit could increase to 50 patrons from June 22 and 100 patrons in mid-July.

Mr Andrews said after more than 50,000 tests were conducted state-wide in the past week, the government was confident enough to start planning to slowly lift restrictions.

“The continuing low numbers of community transmission and the high rates of testing give us confidence that cafes, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses can begin planning for a phased re-opening from the beginning of June,” he said.

All venues will need to abide by existing physical distancing requirements of one person per four square metres while tables will also need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart.

Venues will be required to take the contact details of every customer to assist in rapid contact tracing and safety measures such as extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks will also take place.

The measures apply to standalone restaurants and cafes, as well as restaurants and bistros within a pub, hotel, bar, registered and licensed club, RSL or community club.

Current restrictions on bars, gaming areas and food courts will remain in place throughout June.

Tallarook Hotel owner Adam Knight said opening to a limited number of patrons might not be a viable business model.

“It’ll put us in a situation where, if you have to open with a certain number but without bar service and with table service only, it means our staff requirements would be higher than normal but our patronage would be lower so it would be even more difficult to operate a successful business,” he said.

“The number’s got to be 50-100 people at least for it to become viable, once you open the venue to have all the heating and electricity, beer lines, all that is all going so cost of operation is pretty much 100 per cent but your revenue is likely to be below 50 per cent

“Ideally, I’d open the bar only and maintain a takeaway food service which we’re currently doing on Friday nights or not open at all because financially we just won’t be able to do it.”

Oddfellows Cafe and Rose Cafe owner Kim Short said 20 people was closer to the number that would make reopening worthwhile.

“There are rules about keeping track of customers coming in, some places are taking temperatures, you have to have names and phone numbers, there’s a lot more than just opening the doors so you’re going to have to have extra staff to monitor those things,” she said.

“Maybe not 10 people but if we can go straight up to 20, it’ll be more viable for most cafes and dining outside will be a good option for people who can.”