The Victorian Government has announced new dates and associated restrictions for the hospitality sector, as part of its new National Plan roadmap out of COVID-19.
As of 26 September, 80 per cent of Victorians are expected to have at least one vaccination dose, marking Phase A of the National Plan. Restrictions will remain the same, with food and drink facilities open for takeaway only.
On 26 October, Phase B of the National Plan is estimated to come into effect, with 70 per cent of Victorians predicted to have both vaccination doses. This stage will see lockdown in Melbourne ending.
It is estimated from this date, hospitality venues will be allowed to open outdoor seating to fully vaccinated patrons only. A density quotient of one person per four square metres (DQ4) will still be in place, with venues having a 50 people capacity limit.
On 5 November, Phase C of the National Plan will see 80 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over expected to have received both vaccination doses. At this stage, regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne will come together under the same rules.
Hospitality venues will still only be open for seated service. Fully vaccinated patrons will be able to sit inside hospitality venues with DQ4 restrictions, while outdoor seating has a maximum capacity limit of 500 people, with a density quotient of one person per two square metres (DQ2).
Small hospitality venues will be able to hold up to 25 fully vaccinated people before the DQ4 applies.
On 19 November, 80 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over are estimated to be fully vaccinated, and restrictions will align with Phase D of the National Plan. While specific restrictions for this stage haven’t been released yet, the Victorian Government states they will align with Australia’s National COVID-19 Response, agreed to by the National Cabinet.
While Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA) welcomes the opportunity for the Victorian hospitality sector to capitalise on the busy Christmas trading period, the association has expressed disappointment, describing the announcement as a “watered-down” re-opening strategy, falling well below expectations.
According to Wes Lambert, R&CA CEO, the announcement of strict density requirements and low caps was shocking news to the 4609 restaurants, cafés, and catering businesses across Victoria that are members of R&CA and their 180,000 employees.
“Throughout the many dark days of lockdowns, cumulatively one of the longest in the world, Victoria’s hospitality industry professionals have complied with public health orders and proven time and time again they can be COVID Safe and are now left scratching their heads,” says Wes.
R&CA says that despite its recommendations to allow safe indoor dining, the industry feels “bamboozled” by the harsh patron caps and unspoken density limits. According to R&CA, venues must be larger than 600 square metres or more to meet the Victorian Governments patron cap.
“These caps are impossibly low, especially for venues that do not have outdoor dining capabilities and for larger functions like weddings. The hospitality industry has undeniably been one of the hardest hit in Victoria and will continue to be strangled by restrictions,” says Wes.
“Without increased government support until Victoria hits 80 per cent double dosed and restrictions are eased further – these businesses genuinely risk closure.”
In New South Wale, restrictions in regional areas have eased, allowing hospitality venues with a COVID-19 safety plan to open with DQ4 restrictions inside and DQ2 restrictions outside. Patrons dining outside can stand while drinking.
These restrictions will expand state-wide once NSWs has reached its 70 per cent double vaccination target.