Hospitality owner Adam Pope is calling for the Victorian government to bring some common sense to convoluted restrictions on dancing that are strangling businesses.
Pope, who owns Fabulous Catering, says he lost a $10,000 booking for an engagement party this week because dancing is not allowed in that setting.
“A wedding is allowed to have guests dance, yet an engagement party cannot, but the exact same amount of people will be at the wedding,” he points out.
Under current restrictions in Victoria, indoor dancefloors within hospitality and entertainment venues are not allowed — but the restriction doesn’t apply to weddings.
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The disappointed client told Pope they’d be relocating the party to a house, where up to 100 people are allowed to congregate — and dance.
“So instead of filling our venue with 120 people, they moved the entire party to their house, where it is no longer in a controlled environment, audited and measured with our COVID-safe practices in hand,” Pope continues.
Pope experienced another bizarre moment last weekend when his company hosted a 21st birthday party with 30 people and no dancing, but a wedding the next day with 110 people and lots of dancing.
Plus, he says, the dancefloor rule is damaging more than just venue owners and providers — listing “taxis, Uber, neighbouring bars, restaurants, and even accommodation that would be linked to the function going ahead” all feeling the pinch.
Pope, 36, started his catering business when he was 19 years old with $100 in the bank — he was working a full-time job but estimates he was putting 80 hours a week into getting his venture off the ground at the beginning.
He says the business was able to pivot into different directions to stay afloat during the pandemic’s chokehold on the hospitality industry, which he describes as a “rollercoaster”.
“A number of diversifications have helped with this, a number of regular contracts for hospitals, government departments and quick thinking to ride off key events such as Mother’s Day where we completed over 2000 deliveries in one day,” he says.
“The pandemic has allowed us to open up to other markets from the retail offering of ready made meals which is now a staple part of the company, but also allowed us to develop our online shop, along with some further automation that has helped us through.”
But throughout the lockdowns, revenue has been down 70-80% on usual takings, Pope says, and this year — though Victoria is not in an official lockdown — it really feels like it is.
“The toll that is now caused which no one is really talking about is this semi-lockdown status that we are in, with no support from the government,” he says.
So far the Victorian government has resisted calls to offer cash assistance to businesses and workers hit by the Omicron crisis, even though the variant is slowing the nation’s economic recovery.
Pope calling on the government to urgently review the rules around dancing to get some consistency for the hospitality industry as it forges a path back to the new normal.
“All the vendors that are involved in that party are affected, the cake maker, the balloons, the retail shops that people will purchase new clothes from for the function, makeup and hair, DJ’s, accommodation, transport, it all stems back from one thing not occurring,” he says
“Without dancing, it’s not much of a party.”