Melbourne pubs are reeling after returning to takeaway service only. The Victorian Government has reimposed stage three restrictions for six weeks in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
It’s a huge blow for the hospitality industry, which was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel after it was announced that restrictions would be eased from June 22 to allow venues to serve drinks without a meal to up to 50 people.
However, those hopes were dashed by Government’s decision to extend a state of emergency in Victoria.
Full lockdown restrictions across Victoria could drain the state’s economy of $1 billion each week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has estimated.
Frydenberg told Today it was going to be a significant challenge for the national economy.
“Victoria is a quarter of the national economy and what has been happening with the recent spike in cases has affected consumer confidence more broadly,” he said.
Three weeks ago, The Australian Hotels Association said restrictions on pubs and hotels were forcing the industry to a point of no return, with many businesses facing full-time closure.
“We fear there will be pub closures — up to half the pubs — if the current restrictions are not eased in a more rapid time frame,” AHA chief Paddy O’Sullivan said at the time.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver told The Australian: “Those who survived the first lockdown welcomed the earlier-than-expected reopening because they’d managed to survive, but now find they’ve got another one and their financial buffer isn’t great.”
The Australian Venue Company, which has 40 venues in Melbourne, told 9News it would be a huge blow. It means 1100 staff will be stood down and the company is unsure how it will employ them once JobKeeper ends in September.
CEO Paul Waterson said the news was “devastating” for staff at Melbourne pubs and their suppliers.
Chef Phil Wood, of Mornington Peninsula’s hatted restaurants Pt Leo and Laura, told Good Food the news is devastating for restaurants that have invested thousands of dollars to make their venues COVID-safe, including installing hand-sanitising stations, extra wages to comply with regulations to record customers’ contact details, and who have been left with unusable perishable stock.
“The real tragedy of this second shutdown and the huge impacts it will have is that, despite the information we have all been given, despite the sacrifices and hard work that most people have done in our community, we now face a more devastating period of shutdown because some people have decided that the obligations on our community did not apply to them. That’s a bitter pill to swallow,” he said.
Destinations in regional Victorian areas are also devastated. Daylesford Hotel is heavily reliant on tourism from Melbourne.
Owner Anne-Marie Banting (above) told ABC News: “My business partner and I have been taking it in turns to cry. One day one of us is crying, the next day the other is crying.
“We’ve absolutely just lost our biggest market. It could be that we have to shut the hotel down. Again. Go into hibernation.
“It’s a bloody rollercoaster. Right now I’m feeling sick in the stomach.”
Iain Ling at the Lincoln Hotel, which served 6000 meals in six weeks to unemployed hospitality workers during shutdown, said: “Look out for each other. Mental health is going out the window.”
Melbourne pubs – why six weeks?
Experts have said that with the high levels of community spread of COVID-19 in Victoria – another 135 cases were reported today – a full six-week lockdown was needed to stop the virus spiralling out of control.
Premier Dan Andrews said he six-week time frame for lockdowns has been chosen because of the life cycle of COVID-19.
“The life cycle of this virus is about the 14-day period,” he said. “The six weeks means we have three of those full cycles.”
Andrews also warned Melbourne residents not to visit venues in regional Victoria.
“It will not be lawful for somebody from, say, Mulgrave, where I live, to travel to Geelong to go and have dinner and if I did that, I would be asked by any and all venues I try to present to to provide ID, like they take names and phone numbers now, the notion of ID to determine you are local and not from Melbourne, that will become a feature of the way those restaurants, cafe, bar, the food service parts of pubs will have to operate,” he said.
Will NSW follow?
Epidemiologist and World Health Organisation advisor Mary-Louise McLaws has warned NSW could head back into lockdown if it fails to stem coronavirus cases arriving from Victoria.
McLaws told news.com.au there was an “alert number” of active cases that would see health authorities in NSW too overwhelmed to conduct effective conduct tracing.
If it gets to 100 cases in 14 days – not including returning travellers in quarantine – then cases could start to double and triple beyond that.
“I hope authorities will revisit the restrictions,” she said. “We don’t want to do it later. As an epidemiologist, if we wait too long we will find it very difficult to contain this virus.
NSW has recorded 13 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
All but two are returning travellers in hotel quarantine.
The Tathra Hotel on the NSW South Coast closed yesterday after it was discovered that a holidaying Victorian teenager with the virus ate lunch there on Sunday.
“NSW Health have been more than happy with the way the hotel has been dealing with the restrictions and have advised that we do not need to close,” the posts read.
“However, all the staff that were working on Sunday need to get tested and are not allowed back at the hotel until they have a negative test result.
“So the hotel is closed due to a staff shortage rather than any health orders.”