Hotels in the Taylor Group - including the Barwon Heads Hotel, seen here - can open to up to 20 diners per enclosed space from June 1.

Clearing tables: Bellarine eateries prepare for diners from June 1

May 21, 2020 BY

CAFES, pubs and restaurants in Victoria can re-open their doors in less than two weeks to serve meals to up to 20 customers in each enclosed space, and traders on the Bellarine are cautiously optimistic about how it might work.
As announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, the number of people per enclosed space could increase to up to 50 patrons by June 22 and up to 100 patrons by the second half of July.
All venues will need to abide by existing physical distancing requirements of one person per four square metres. Tables will also need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart.
Restrictions on other spaces within venues, including public bars and gaming areas, will remain in place throughout June.
Ocean Grove Business Association president Ty Simons said the easing of restrictions from June 1 had come faster than he expected and were welcomed by traders in the association.
‘We’re all really excited about being able to actually see customers again.”
He said 20 patrons at a time was “pretty good” as a starting point, but he hoped customers would respect the nature of the hospitality business.
“We want people to come in and eat, not come in for a coffee and sit there for an hour and a half.
“I know businesses are already talking about seating times, and the need to have bookings.”
However, the return to serving customers in store has its downsides. Mr Simons also runs the Driftwood Café, and said he would now have to postpone or accelerate some of his planned maintenance work.
Joel Taylor, general manager of the Taylor Group – which owns the Barwon Heads Hotel, Grovedale Hotel and Torquay Hotel – said the 20-patron limit would suit smaller operators “and it’s fantastic news for them”, but not larger venues.
“I’ve had lots of messages from customers saying ‘June 1! June 1!’, but if you’re sitting in a room designed for 200 and you’re one of 20, it’s not really the experience we want to offer you.
“Pubs are strange places without people in them.
“We’re looking forward to the next stage (with a 50-patron limit), where we might be able to turn the bars into little bistros.”
Mr Andrews said before each of the three dates, the Chief Health Officer would review the rates of community transmission in Victoria, confirm the ability to test, trace and respond to possible outbreaks and make sure there was an adequate safety net in the health system.
“This industry has told us they need time to plan and prepare to protect the safety of their staff and customers. Making these announcements now will be giving them that time.
“The hospitality industry is one of the pillars of the Victorian economy and has been among the hardest hit by this pandemic – re-opening the venues we all love is a critical piece of the puzzle in saving jobs and restoring our local communities.
“We need to be really clear, though: this is not a done deal. These timelines will depend on how we’re tracking.”

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