27 Oct 2020

Covid-19 lockdown lifts for Melbourne

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 27 October 2020

Melbourne's five million citizens will be able to leave their homes from midnight and all cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels will be allowed to reopen.

Australia's second largest city has been under strict Covid-19 restrictions for the past 15 weeks, but after the state recorded its first 24 hour period without any new coronavirus infections since 9 June, authorities say its time for the city to open up.

"We're certainly excited," Australian Venue Company boss Paul Waterson told Checkpoint.

"Really looking forward to taking the first one off the wood tonight at midnight."

Waterson said he lockdown was "pretty horrific" and he only went out for an hour or two a day.

"I know you guys had a very hard lockdown in Auckland but ours just seems to have gone on for ever and ever."

He said his company, Aussie Venue Co, was lucky enough to have pubs in other states and New Zealand.

"But those guys who've just got pubs in Victoria, they've really been struggling."

He said that of his 4200 staff, the 1200 in Victoria will be able to head back to work tomorrow for the first time since March.

They have managed to keep their Victoria staff thanks to the Australian Government's Job Keeper scheme.

Upon reopening, venues and pubs still face restrictions. Waterson said they can have 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors - a small number given some of their venues can fit 800-900 people.

"We've got pretty comprehensive contact tracing as well as a normal sanitisation procedure so it's not like going to a normal pub, it doesn't have the atmosphere that you'd normally expect, but hopefully we get there over time."

"We got to start somewhere. I think it's just about building confidence in the government that 'yeah, we can open safely' so we'll probably lose more money opening the venues with that capacity than we would've with them closed, but we got to have a crack and get started."

Waterson said that when the easing of restrictions was announced, a number of pubs booked out within 15 minutes.

"We've got a couple of pubs opening at 11.59pm. People were just desperate to get back in and then just have their first beer, and then the rest of them will open tomorrow."

He said that during the lockdown the company had given support to their staff who were on working visas who could not receive government funding.

"We've been paying them even though we've had no income ourselves. It's been really harrowing."