Victoria’s business sectors have largely skewered Premier Daniel Andrews for ongoing delays as Melbourne prepares to slowly reopen to customers.
The city’s retail, hospitality and most personal care traders may have to wait another two weeks before opening their doors as tough coronavirus restrictions are gradaully lifted.
Under the state government’s latest plan, all metropolitan Melbourne retailers can resume trading from 11.59pm on November 1.
Hospitality venues will be able to seat up to 20 indoor customers and as many as 50 outdoor patrons subject to density limits, while beauty and personal care services can also open.
But Mr Andrews also dangled a carrot, flagging that the changes might be brought forward to next Sunday if case numbers remain low.
“If we enjoy these freedoms but do it in a COVID-safe way … there is every chance that we are able to bring the first of November deadline forward,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Even so, Melbourne’s Chapel Street Precinct traders reacted in “a cloud of anger” at the extended wait.
“We call on Dan to lift restrictions now and not make us wait for more harrowing days,” association chairman Justin O’Donnell said in a statement.
“Our businesses should not be forced to suffer one more day of forced closures.”
Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said the industry was on track to lose $23 billion in visitor spending at a cost of 165,000 jobs.
“Businesses large and small were hoping for a lifeline of income from the upcoming (AFL) grand final and Melbourne Cup long weekends,” she said.
“These are peak periods that, yet again, the industry will lose.”
Melbourne’s pubs and hotels were also left bitterly disappointed by the further delays.
The Australian Hotels Association’s Victorian branch president, David Canny, labelled the indoor patron limit “unrealistic and unviable” for Melbourne publicans.
“Pubs are accumulating debt at an alarming rate under ongoing forced COVID shutdown of the industry,” he said.
“I fear a number of local pubs might not survive with costs amounting to almost $10,000 per week … and up to $25,000 per week for larger pubs.”
While acknowledging the restart date was later than hoped, the retail sector said the reopening of hairdressers from Sunday and allowance for staff to return to stores from October 28 in preparation for customers had lifted despair among their ranks.
“It is just in time for the official start of Christmas shopping period and very welcome news for retailers who have been desperately seeking clarity for months,” Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said.
Melbourne real estate agents were also buoyed after getting the green light to resume auctions with up to 10 people plus staff, as well as private commercial inspections.
“The ability to commence inspections of commercial properties for sale or lease will help with economic recovery allow business owners to sell, buy or lease properties to rebuild their businesses,” the Real Estate Institute of Victoria said.