Not happy, Dan: Hospo owners voice frustration

Not viable: Traralgon Vineyard owner Leon Hammond decided to remain closed despite lockdown lifting in regional Victoria, saying the current patron capacity limits made it unviable for him to reopen. photograph tom gannon


MANY hospitality businesses across the Latrobe Valley have made the decision to remain closed as a result of the state government’s new dining restrictions which they say are ‘not viable’.

Local businesses owners say the new rule change which allows for only 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors at any one time is not profitable and must be reconsidered.

Traralgon Vineyard owner Leon Hammond made the decision to remain closed despite lockdown ending in regional Victoria.

Mr Hammond said the new limit was not enough for many hospitality businesses to even consider reopening and comes as an ‘insult’ after almost two years in lockdown limbo.

“It’s just not practical, really it’s an insult to a person’s intelligence the decision they’ve made to do this because you just can’t viably operate,” he told The Express.

“The trauma for us in hospitality is when you get up in the morning, you’re just not sure what’s going to happen next.”

Mr Hammond said he was particularly frustrated with the logic behind the decision to reopen hospitality businesses with such low numbers.

“I’m sure they’ve got a spinning wheel or a dart board because there’s no consistency, there’s no formula, there’s no scientific proof of what they are doing, and they just pluck a figure out of the air and go with it,” he said.

Initially hoping to reopen at full capacity, Mr Hammond went as far as requesting bookings on Facebook, to which he received 102 in the hour and a half before becoming aware of the 30-person limit.

Mr Hammond said logistical issues like having to be prepared to cater for all dishes on the vineyard’s à la carte menu meant opening for ten people would potentially equate to more losses.

“The frustration is if you order food for ten people and you’ve got an à la carte menu, if you only have four things on it, it means you’ve got to have 40 serves of food because they might all order chicken, or all order the steak,” he said.

“We could do it if we made soup and toast for ten people but we’d have to charge them $50 for soup and $10 for the toast.”

Deputy Secretary for Public Health Policy and Strategy said the state government’s decision to implement a 10 indoor and 20 outdoor limit was made to prevent potential super spreader events.

“It’s in regards to the number of people who gather in locations where they will take of their mask to eat and drink,” she said.

“We just move slowly, cautiously and carefully because we know that DELTA will take any opportunity it can and potentially result in a super spreading event.”

Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath has called for the state government to provide more direction and a plan for further opening regional Victoria.

“People need a direction, they need a plan,” she said.

“It just goes to show you cannot make a profit out of 10 people, I think the big frustration they (businesses) are finding is the flowing in and out of different arrangements.

“It’s absolutely doing people’s heads in, they can’t cope in terms of their own profitability but they also can’t cope in terms of what it’s doing to their staff.”