Regional Victoria has reached Step Three on its road to recovery from COVID-19, but its far from sunshine and rainbows for numerous hospitality businesses.
Bairnsdale RSL manager, Shane Prendergast, said its simply not viable for the RSL to reopen under the current restrictions, which allow just groups of 10 people per two spaces, for a total of 20, with a cap of 50 people when you include outdoor dining.
“It’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” Mr Prendergast said of the current restrictions.
“We’re staying shut.
“We’ve got a 1400 square metre building and we’re only allowed to have 20 people in it and a licence for 1100 people.
“Put simply we lose more money by being open.”
Mr Prendergast said the limit on the number of patrons the venue could serve ensured reopening wasn’t viable, despite his hopes for a similar set of restrictions that were in place during June and July.
“The first time we went into restrictions we were allowed to have 20 people per room and now we’re restricted to 10 and two rooms. We have five rooms we can use. Last time we could have 100 people, but now we’ve got five rooms and only two we can use,” he said.
“As soon as I turn everything back on the power bill multiples by four, it goes from about $800 to $3800-$4000 a week, regardless if you’ve got 2000 people or 10. Because you’ve got less people in here you don’t use less power.
“We’ve got 40 staff on JobKeeper. We were expecting to get something good out of the latest restrictions, and if it went to 20 per room we would’ve had a look at it.
“It’s not worth it for 20 people total.
“And outdoor dining, we’ve got an outdoor area, but who is going to want to sit outside at 8-10 degrees of a night?
“We have to say shut until restrictions allow it to be a viable businesses. We can’t open up to lose more money.”
Kylie Tabone, from the Grand Terminus Hotel in Bairnsdale, said they do not have the ability to open the bistro to outdoor seating only.
“Ideally as a first step we just want to go back to what we had, 20 people in the bar area to allow for social distancing and 20 in the bistro area. It worked well last time,” she said.
Russell Bates, from the Marlo Hotel, agreed, saying pubs like his that had multiple large indoor areas, should be able to utilise them as a means of safely catering for customers and being viable.
“If we were limited to outdoor service only, it would be a massive restriction to us being able to operate and each day would be very weather dependent. We need more security than that,” he said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Rob Turner, of Main Street Bairnsdale café, Northern Ground, reopened his doors last Thursday. The café can serve 10 people and 20 outdoor under the restrictions.
He said it was nice to welcome back regular clientele and see some smiling faces, in between taking masks on and off to eat.
“It’s not too bad for us providing the weather stays good and when it’s not it cuts us off to just the 10 people inside,” he said.
“Although it’s great to have the restrictions lifted, if it was just 10 people inside total it wouldn’t be feasible.
“But because we’ve got the outdoor space - and we’ve got a beautiful outdoor space, I can see 18 people out there now – we can accommodate a few more.”
Rob said the café had enjoyed a busy first morning of trade.
“It’s great to get people back in and people have loved it – it’s progress,” he said.
“It’s been as busy as can be with 10 inside at time, everyone has been having a cooked breakfast so it’s good for business.
“I don’t think anyone in hospitality does it to get rich, we do it to serve customers ultimately and I get to use the best produce locally, which is a big part of my business.
“We do it to serve customers so it’s great to have a few people back. The regulars have been straight back in and hopefully come summer we have the Melbourne trade as well.”
Local MP, Tim Bull, said while Step Three restrictions allow for some businesses to reopen, it is not one-size-fits-all approach.
“This won’t work for many. There are numerous local pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes that simply do not have outdoor seated dining options, so we need to have the ability for these businesses to cater for a set number of patrons inside, as they did successfully last time.”
Wendy and Tony McKean, of Lakes Entrance, with their three-year-old grandson, Abel Elrington, were pleased to be able get out and about again yesterday, enjoying a drink at Paper Chase Café. While some hospitality businesses could resume table service last week, COVID-19 restrictions mean not all businesses can reopen. K407-3234