As part of today’s media press conference, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews noted that Victorians could now allow five guests in their homes and that outdoor recreational activities in groups of up to ten would now be allowed. But cafés and restaurants will have to continue to be patient.
Last Friday prime minister Scott Morrison announced that the first step in the three-step plan to achieve a "Covid-safe economy" would be to resume trade in restaurants, cafés and retail shops. However, decisions made during the national cabinet meeting are non-binding for states, which means it’s up to each individual premier to decide on a plan of action for their state.
Andrews said today that he would have more information on the reopening of cafés and restaurants in coming weeks, and he made no concrete announcements about when they would reopen for table service. However, he did suggest that in June, these venues might not have to allow four square metres of space per patron and cater for a maximum of ten people at a time, which was a restriction introduced back on March 20.
“If you think about cafés and restaurants, my thinking here is that if we wait these three weeks, when we move to open, go beyond just takeaway, for cafés we might not have to stick with the number of ten,” said Andrews. “We might be able to go higher, [but] I won’t speculate on what that number is.”
“I think the feedback from many businesses is that at just ten patrons, it’s hard to be viable,” said the premier.
Below shows how a 16-square-metre venue – roughly the size of an average Melbourne café – could be configured to accommodate eight customers and two staff. There would be no way to seat ten people while maintaining that kind of distance between them.
But Andrews is keen to wait until June to see where businesses like cafés and restaurants stand. “If we wait three weeks, if we do the testing [and] have that further assurance that the significant steps we took today [aren’t] causing us trouble that we can’t manage, then I think we can take a bigger step potentially in June for cafés and restaurants and get them to a point where they are viable.”
Andrews also mentioned that many restaurants and cafés have had to completely overhaul their business models – most pivoting to takeaway and delivery and even selling groceries just to stay afloat. “I think takeaway will be a feature for a long time,” the premier said. “If we can supplement and complement that with table service at more than ten, there’s every chance for a more viable model.”