Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “‘It’s better than having the doors closed’: strict rules pose reopening challenge for Melbourne businesses | Melbourne”
Melbourne’s hospitality industry begins its transition from a long slumber to welcoming customers, but strict density limits may delay the opening of some businesses as they adjust to the new rules.
Roughly half of cafes and restaurants on Melbourne’s famous Chapel Street shopping strip will be able to open their doors on Wednesday, as businesses hurriedly rework their premises to allow outdoor dining.
Chrissie Maus, general manager of the Chapel Street Precinct Association, was “extraordinarily relieved and excited” when premier Daniel Andrews announced hospitality could reopen, but said “it’s an absolute pipe dream to think that the majority of our businesses will just be able to transition to outdoor dining”.
“Financially it won’t be more than half of them that will be able to open up for that few people at midnight.”
From Wednesday, hospitality venues will be allowed to accept dine-in customers but at a maximum of two groups of 10 inside and 50 people outside, provided there are at least two square metres per person. On a busy intercity street like Chapel Street, that kind of space is hard to come by.
From 8 November, these limits are set to increase to 40 people inside, and 70 at outdoor venues.
“People think that yesterday’s announcements just waved the magic wand … but they are going to need to relax those density caps really quickly in order to provide real relief,” Maus said. “We need to temper expectations.”
Following Guardian Australia’s reporting, the state’s small business minister, Jaala Pulford, was asked in parliament by the opposition about the status of hospitality venues on Chapel Street and agreed to meet with the association to discuss the issues.
Despite challenged businesses like Naughty Nancy’s are determined to make it work.
“We can seat 12 outside our front, 10 in the bar downstairs and 10 upstairs. So it’s not ideal, it probably will not be a money-maker, but it’s better than having the doors closed,” owner Collin Kelly said.
Kelly’s bar was brand new when the pandemic hit, and they were only able to open for five days in between lockdowns.
“Opening now is more about building up a reputation and rebuilding a name for ourselves,” he said.
Cafes and restaurants in Melbourne were given just over a day to shake themselves out of their takeaway-only rut and get businesses dine-in ready again, but getting suppliers back after months of lockdown is no easy feat.
“I’m really really happy but it is a bit difficult to organise in a day-and-a-half,” said Michael Favaloro from the Amici Cafe on Chapel Street.
“It’s been a bit of a scramble to get suppliers. By yesterday afternoon they were sold out of food because they haven’t been carrying a lot of stuff either … We will just have to get to Costco and find a way.”
Favaloro has spent the morning lugging outdoor dining furniture on to the path outside the cafe, using a tape measure to make sure the seats are 1.5 metres apart.
“It’s hard with density, but we can make it work,” he said. “The council have let us extend the dining area further down the path.”
Tim Tam, a bar owner on the strip, had been beaming under his mask all morning.
“I’m excited, I’m worried. I’m emotional because I have freedom again after so long,” he said, wearing a rainbow wig and carrying a Peter Pan costume for the evening.
“I haven’t been able to get staff back or any of my stock but, oh well, we will just see what happens.”
Maus said everyone on the street was now focused on rebuilding.
“We are all equal parts exhausted, relieved and excited, now everyone is thinking about the future,” she said.
“In term of mental health for our store owners, the last month has really been the hardest.”
Fourteen business along Chapel Street closed during the pandemic, mostly in the first wave, but Maus said they were able to attract new stores due to landlords offering the first three or six months rent-free.
“The landlords have really come to the table, obviously it has been hard for them, but they are starting to see the opportunity,” she said.
“In the first wave, you had all these people cooking up ideas, in the second you started to see people actually taking the leaps into it.”
She noted that those businesses who have been able to open were flooded with bookings.
“The support has been overwhelming and many businesses are actually sold out,” she said.
“I have this feeling that this weekend on the street is going to be so so busy, and locals are really keen to get behind us and come and enjoy the celebration.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘It’s better than having the doors closed’: strict rules pose reopening challenge for Melbourne businesses | Melbourne