Licensed venues are reeling following the Government’s decision to extend a state of emergency in Victoria until at least July 12, with restrictions reimposed.
From midnight on Sunday, some COVID-19 restrictions were reimposed, together with a warning that they will be enforced by police.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities would go door-to-door to ensure the new rules are being adhered to.
Cafes, restaurants and pubs were set to expand their number of patrons from 20 to 50 today, but that’s now on hold due to a rise in positive COVID-19 test results. Nineteen new cases were recorded on Sunday, 25 on Saturday, 13 on Friday, 18 on Thursday and 21 on Wednesday.
Licensed venues had bookings and food lined up for the new 50 patrons rule and were looking forward to finally having the opportunity to turn a profit.
The situation is particularly dire for venues in the local government areas of Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, a panel of chief health officers, said: “The AHPPC strongly discourages travel to and from those areas until control of community transmission has been confirmed.”
Andrews added: “If we keep seeing high case numbers each day, we will have to consider putting whole suburbs back into lockdown.”
The CBD isn’t faring much better.
“If the CBD doesn’t increase in foot traffic and people working in the city by the end of September, I would find it very difficult to think we could be viable without JobKeeper,” MoVida’s co-owner Frank Camorra told ABC News.
Australian Hotels Association chief Paddy O’Sullivan told The Age many pub operators who had been looking forward to the relaxation of rules were “angry the minority have ruined it for everyone”. But he said it was positive that the government was still allowing customers drink at a bar without needing to also order food.
Warrnambool Hotel publican Steve Phillpot said that while he was “no health expert”, he thought areas without any cases for some time “probably should be able to operate a bit more liberally. Although you’ve still got to be cautious. But if you’ve got a track record of no virus then you should be a bit looser – you’ve got to keep the economy going.”
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said venues had been “blindsided” by the last-minute changes.
“They’ve bought the food, they’ve hired the staff and now they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them,” he said.
But Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said: “The last thing we want is to have more people to be gathering in large numbers in cafes and restaurants at a time when we are seeing increasing numbers in Victoria.”
The Restaurant and Catering Association estimates 10% of hospitality businesses have already closed permanently due to COVID-19.
Restaurant and Catering Association said it believes if government support is withdrawn in October as planned, that figure could rise to 20% within months.
The Premier remains adamant that the only way to prevent a second wave is for Victorians to be highly cautious about leaving home.
“Don’t visit friends and family. Don’t go on holiday. Don’t go to work. Stay home,” Andrews said.