AN ALLIANCE of chambers and business associations in regional Victoria are “pleading” for the state government to ease coronavirus restrictions on Monday next week.
The Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance comprises 12 chambers and business associations from across the state.
Commerce Torquay is not a signatory to the letter, but president Jeff Crow said he supported the letter’s message and Commerce Torquay would have signed on.
The letter, released earlier this week, states regional Victoria appreciated the harsh restrictions needed to achieve the low levels of coronavirus – which include a 14-day rolling average of 0.4 cases and no cases with an unknown source for two weeks.
The alliance also appreciates the reasons for waiting for metropolitan Melbourne (which is in the Second Step of the coronavirus roadmap) to “catch up” to regional Victoria’s Third Step, but the regional economy “continues to needlessly suffer”.
“The hospitality sector, as well as being a major employer of our young people, is such a critical part of the recovery of our devastated tourism industry and it is simply not viable for them to continue under their current restrictions. They are hemorraghing money trying to stay afloat and keep their staff employed.”
The alliance believes there is “enormous concern” about coming events such as the AFL grand final and the Melbourne Cup.
“If people are unable to book into a venue due to small patron caps, it is inevitable there will be an increase in illegal private gatherings.”
The letter also states “industries who have been left behind” such as gyms and indoor group fitness could have been included in the first reopening.
“Finally, on many occasions, it can be days or weeks for detailed information to be available online after it is announced publicly.
“The industries throughout regional Victoria are now well equipped and ready to be open.”
Mr Crow said “there was a lot of angst among businesses” outside of Melbourne about “not being able to get going” under the Third Step restrictions, particularly cafes, pubs and restaurants, which are limited to 20 customers inside and 50 customers outside and have to contend with the weather.
“On the first day, we had one of the worst hailstorms we ever had; there was snow in the Otways.”
Mr Crow said the AFL grand final on October 24 would be a real test for many Surf Coast hospitality venues, and used his business, Bells Beach Brewing, as an example.
“We have a venue licence for 80, we have the largest screen in town, we show sports here – 10 people can watch the grand final. And it puts enormous stress on us because everyone assumes they’ll be one of those 10 people.
“Everyone’s trying to make something work outside – what happens if it rains on the night? You can have 10 people for a grand final.”