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What Do Victoria’s Easing Restrictions Mean for Hospitality?

Restrictions around the state eased – just a little bit – at midnight on Wednesday, but is it enough to help the ailing hospitality industry?

Victorians are now allowed to have up to five guests in their homes and groups of 10 are permitted to gather for outdoor sport. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the changes on Monday but cautioned against complacency, stating that we should only make house visits if they’re absolutely necessary.

“This is safe, this is cautious, this is appropriate. We’re not other states. We face our own unique challenges and we need to be appropriate to those,” Andrews said. “We need to be cautious.”

The news brings some relief to Victorians who haven’t been able to see friends or family for more than two months, but where does the struggling hospitality industry fit into the new framework?

Bars, restaurants and cafes are keen to resume normal trading, but that probably won’t begin happening until June, with Victorians told to assume these changes will be in effect for at least three weeks and a renewed state of emergency in place until 11.59pm on Sunday May 31.

“[In] June, following more testing, following the experience of these three-and-a-half weeks, that’ll guide us,” Andrews said. “We’ll have more to say about cafes at that time, [and] restaurants and a whole range of other issues.”

For now, businesses will have to stick to takeaway trading. Dine-in options will become more feasible with each stage of lifting restrictions, but businesses will need plans in place to ensure diners maintain social distancing requirements.

It could still be a month or two before we see hospitality bounce back properly, but there have been positive signs. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a speech to parliament yesterday that lifting restrictions is expected to help some 850,000 people return to the workforce. The federal government estimates that 338,000 of this number will be in food and accommodation services.

Each state is lifting restrictions at different rates. Victoria has lagged behind in easing its lockdown, but that’s mostly due to the relatively high number of cases seen in recent weeks. If the easing of restrictions goes to plan, we could see small restaurants offering dine-in to customers from early June, with larger venues and bars reopening later in the year.

In the meantime, you can see which of your favourite restaurants are open for takeaway here.

Photography: Pip Musso

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