Melbourne Businesses Disappointed by Ongoing Delay to Reopen

Melbourne Businesses Disappointed by Ongoing Delay to Reopen
Closed Uniqlo store in Melbourne CBD, Australia on April 5, 2020. Retail told to wait til Nov. 1, 2020 to reopen due to stage four COVID-19 restrictions. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Victoria's business and tourism sectors have skewered Premier Daniel Andrews for ongoing delays in further reopening Melbourne.

The city's retail, hospitality and personal care traders may have to wait another two weeks before opening their doors.

Under the state government's latest plan, all metropolitan Melbourne retailers can resume trading from 11.59pm on Nov. 1.

Hospitality venues will be able to seat up to 20 indoor customers and up to 50 outdoor patrons subject to density limits, while beauty and personal care services can also open.

But 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 COVIDSafe way, the things I have announced today ... 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 prospect of being left waiting.

"We call on Dan to lift restrictions now and not make us wait for more harrowing days," the association's chair Justin O'Donnell said in a statement.

"We are below the recommended national number for easing restrictions and are now below the NSW (New South Wales) daily numbers and they are open for business and we are not.

"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 (US$16.2 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 at the further delays.

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 ($250,000 over the lockdown period), and up to $25,000 per week for larger pubs."

Modelling has previously estimated the lockdown costs Victoria's economy about $1 billion a week.

The premier said the upcoming state budget would outline the scale of the damage to businesses and how the government intends fixing it.

"You cannot fix the economy and repair the damage that this virus has done to the economy until you deal with the virus," Andrews said.

By Callum Godde