Road map offers “glimmer of hope”, but traders fear strict limits will hamper business

Road map offers “glimmer of hope”, but traders fear strict limits will hamper business
Brendan Rees

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp says Victoria’s road map out of lockdown offers “a glimmer of hope for traders” as pandemic restrictions are set to be eased by late October.       

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues would be able to open to outdoor dining on October 26 with a limit of 50 fully vaccinated people when 70 per cent of the Victorians aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hairdressing would also return for the fully vaccinated with a maximum of five people in a salon at one time.  

Cr Capp welcomed the news saying it “outlined the first few important steps towards reopening”, but added the council was “doing everything we can to get Victorians vaccinated as soon as possible so we can bring forward the steps in the road map”.

“We are determined to turn the city inside out by bringing indoor hospitality and trading outside onto our beautiful streets so that traders can welcome back more patrons and customers sooner,” she said.

Michele Cardamoni, who runs Armicono Restaurant in West Melbourne, said while it was “great to have an opening date”, the strict limits on patrons would mean he would only be able to seat 25 people outdoors which he labelled as “ridiculous”.

“We’re handicapped in the way that we can operate,” he said.

“The bureaucrats should actually sit down with people like me that know the mechanics of running a small business rather than come up with ludicrous alternatives to opening up.”

Similarly, Jodie Johnson, the owner of Hot Poppy Café in North Melbourne, said she was “pretty excited” to reopen to outdoor dining but feared strict capacity limits would hamper trading.

“We make more money in doing takeaway than we would opening up with the restrictive seating,” she said.

“It’s only for a couple of weeks, we hope. We just have to suck it up basically.”

Ash Benson, owner of Local Folk in Kensington and the Kensington Food Hall, said he was relieved to have some rough dates to work towards after having to pivot his business model.

“It’s exciting … it’s almost like opening a new restaurant again. There’s a few teething problems, it’s going to be interesting,” he said.

Mr Benson added that both businesses were based on a “pretty substantial takeaway service” and had dropped their prices “on everything to support the community a bit and just get through”.

Meanwhile, the Lord Mayor said the council would “look forward to more information regarding the reopening steps beyond December”.

“This will be integral for businesses going forward so they can look forward to operating more normally,” she said.
Once Victoria reaches its 80 per cent double-dose target, which is predicted to be around November 5, retail and beauty services can reopen for the fully vaccinated, and hospitality can resume indoors for up to 150 people.

Last month, City of Melbourne councillors voted unanimously in support of introducing a “health pass” system to safely reopen hospitality, arts and entertainment venues sooner.

And in early October, councillors endorsed a proposed City Activation Grants program to support the activation of retail, hospitality and entertainment precincts across the municipality.

It comes as a joint-funded package of grants from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments announced on September 30 would also support thousands of businesses until Victoria reopened. 

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said, “financial support is crucial, but the best support we can give business is the ability to trade”.  

“We want to get back to doing what we do best, which is serving customers and servicing the community,” he said •

Caption: Michele Cardamoni, who runs Armicono Restaurant, is critical of strict patron limits.

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