Victorian restaurants and cafes would be required to keep their indoor dining rooms closed until the state records no new cases of coronavirus for two weeks, under a draft re-opening roadmap considered in industry negotiations over the last week.
A leaked draft of plans to move Victoria out of its COVID-19 lockdowns, published by The Herald Sun on Thursday, outline several more weeks of stage four before a slow and steady easing of restrictions.
Premier Daniel Andrews, who is due to hand down a finalised plan on Sunday, said the leaked roadmap was “out of date”, but SmartCompany understands the draft plan reflects current negotiations about how cafes and restaurants should proceed out of stage four.
The draft plan would require hospitality businesses to stick with takeaway- and delivery-only until daily average coronavirus cases fall below five over a two week period, with fewer than three mystery cases recorded over that time.
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From there, under ‘stage two’, hospitality businesses would be able to host customers in outdoor dining areas, for seated service only and with density limits.
Indoor dining would only be allowed to re-open once Victoria records no new cases of coronavirus for 14 days, according to the draft plan’s outline for ‘stage one’.
Andrews said the leaked draft has “no status”.
Wes Lambert, chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Association, who has been participating in government consultations about the re-opening roadmap this week, says the leaked re-opening plan would be “untenable”.
“Takeaway-only until stage two and outdoor dining until stage one is not a tenable position,” Lambert tells SmartCompany.
“Restaurants are willing to do whatever it takes to get bums on seats.”
Lambert has argued Victoria should look to NSW, where restaurants are allowed to host dine-in customers even as the state deals with clusters of community transmission.
“We have a neighbouring state that is operating with clusters of community transmission, using tracking, tracing and testing,” Lambert says.
“They’re looking to Italy, Spain and France, but why aren’t they looking into their own backyard?”
Lambert says the association is lobbying the state government, at the very least, for exemptions that would allow businesses without access to outdoor dining space to host customers indoors under any stage two plan.
“You’ll have winners and losers, meaning if you are in the lucky leaf club and you have access to outdoor dining then you will benefit, but if you don’t, no one will guarantee that private landowners, councils and the state government will allow businesses to expand outside,” Lambert says.
“You need to, at a minimum, have exemptions.”