Change the rules: Tourism industry wants COVID-19 restrictions eased further

June 10, 2021 BY

Klein's Anglesea Hotel has temporarily closed to dine-in customers, though it is offering a take-away service. Photo: KLEIN'S ANGLESEA HOTEL

CORONAVIRUS restrictions may have eased in regional Victoria compared to Melbourne, but the local tourism industry says the state government’s “one size fits all” approach has not gone far enough and is making it unviable for some venues to open.

After seven days of lockdown, restrictions outside of Melbourne loosened on Friday last week, including no longer requiring the wearing of face masks outside, no restrictions on movement and the opening of all retail.

Restaurants, pubs, cafes and wineries were allowed to open for seated dine-in service, but with a maximum cap of 50 patrons across the entire venue, both indoors and outdoors.

This has proved a particular sticking point for some hospitality operators, with some medium- and larger-sized venues only allowed to open well under their usual capacity.

Klein’s Anglesea Hotel announced on Sunday it had made the “difficult decision to close our doors yet again” to dine-in customers, though it is offering a take-away service.

“The government has imposed restrictions that make it impossible for us to continue to serve you at the level we want to,” the hotel wrote on its Facebook page.

“A capacity of 50 patrons throughout the whole venue has proven to not be viable from a business perspective.”

As part of the eased restrictions in regional Victoria, customers at all businesses must check in via QR code, and food and drink facilities offering seated services must check customers’ licences to make sure they are from regional Victoria and refuse to provide them service if they are from Melbourne (unless they have a permitted reason).

Klein’s Anglesea Hotel described the new entry requirements as a “logistical nightmare”.

“Our staff have been challenged by some customers because of rules implemented that are beyond our control, and while we share their frustration, our staff deserve to be respected when they are at work.

“We hope the government is able to reassess these restrictions to allow us to provide you with our standard of quality, service and attention so you have the best possible experience with us.

“Our team want nothing more than to serve our wonderful customers from both regional Victoria and Melbourne as soon as possible.”

Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine (TGGB) executive director Brett Ince said he was “extremely disappointed” that Victoria had entered a fourth lockdown.

“We know seven days doesn’t mean just seven days because it takes a long time for confidence to come back, and to get back to where we were in the COVID Normal restrictions,” he said.

“What we’re hoping for is that when Melbourne takes this next step, regional Victoria’s restrictions are loosened once again as well.”

He said Victoria’s third lockdown in February had hit hard, but businesses had generated a level of confidence and momentum towards recovery since then.

“While the seven days (May 28-June 3) wasn’t during an absolute peak period, it’s meant that consumer confidence has been rocked once again.”

On Tuesday this week, Acting Premier James Merlino said both Melbourne and regional Victoria were “on track” to have COVID-19 restrictions eased further at the end of this week.

Mr Ince said he was hopeful of good news, and that TGGB was “absolutely aligned” with the sector’s peak body, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, on the need for a roadmap to re-open both Victoria’s regional and metropolitan visitor economies as soon as possible.