Pubs in Victoria are calling on the Andrews’ Government to speed up timeframes for easing of restrictions in light of the sharp reduction in COVID cases, as many operators prepare for innovation and a “summer like no other”.

The Australian Hotels Association (Victoria) leads the call for re-evaluation and greater flexibility in the Hospitality Industry Restart Guidelines, as the state records more than two weeks of fewer than 50 new cases per day.

Current plans see a significant move to outdoor and rooftop activations, as per Premier Andrews’ roadmap announced earlier this month.

In this spirit Australian Venue Co. (AVC) has formed its own plans to bring some of Melbourne’s best pubs and bars outdoors, across 30 local venues.

AVC says discussions are underway with City of Melbourne and key stakeholders, community and residents to bring dining spaces and socially safe beer garden pop-ups.

Any changes would be subject to consultation with Council and need to take into account impacts on local residents, safety, accessibility and city amenity. They could see a range of new tailored settings emerge, finding casual bistro to picnic tables, pods to deck chairs, on rooftops, terraces, and iconic laneways and CBD streets.

The group’s concept also champions all things Melbourne, supporting local food producers and beer suppliers while inviting Melburnians to rediscover their favourite pubs under the new COVID-normal. AVC’s venues Hopscotch, Imperial Bourke, Wharf Hotel, Trinket and European Bier Café reportedly all have suitable spaces for the revised alfresco arrangements.

However, the Andrews Government has already announced venues in regional Victoria are restricted to one outdoor space, holding up to 50 people.

This is seen as a barrier to viability in metropolitan Melbourne if the same capacity limitations are applied, with multiple outdoor spaces in operation key to making the plan successful, according to AVC CEO Paul Waterson.

“Such a restriction would fundamentally change the ability to activate the city at scale.”

The AHA (Vic) echoes the concern, going further to suggest regional Victorian pubs should be allowed to increase their patron capacities for indoor areas from ten people (and two indoor spaces) to 20 people per enclosed space.

“This will pave the way for the safe opening of metro venues,” proffers AHA (Vic) President David Canny, looking to find progress for the Victorian industry.

“We are asking the government to revise their COVID roadmap modelling so that there is a better balance between lives affected and livelihoods lost.”

The Association cites processes and procedures to be COVID Safe and assures government this “is paramount” in resumed operations.

“But we need to be able to operate in a financially viable way, much like others in the retail sector,” adds Canny.

AVC says it is similarly eager to get staff back to work and doors open, suggesting the changes will bring their own reward.

“This summer will be like no other, so we want to bring the very best of our pubs to the streets and laneways across Melbourne,” says Waterson.

“We are feeling positive to be working on these plans with City of Melbourne to create outdoor dining experiences for Melbournians to enjoy.”

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