Pubs may be serving drinks again as soon as in July under certain restrictions currently being developed by a covert government-mandated taskforce that the national cabinet will have to approve.
The taskforce which includes Crown Casino and pub and community club owners has met recently to ensure the industry can recover from not trading during the lockdown, unlike online casinos.
The team was assembled in March by the Department of Justice and will soon finalize a set of anti-virus measures. These could see pubs swapping bar self-service out for cafe-style table service, dining room capacity may be reduced with condiment and water stations being removed and every second poker machine could be unplugged.
Excess stools and tables will be removed to avoid loitering and shared coin buckets may be banned. Shared gaming tables with shared chips were a common occurrence at Crown’s venues. The group is under pressure to restructure its operations but has promised future measures to ensure customer safety.
State Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz, addressed the group on Thursday, indicating that venues may open by late July at the earliest. She further stated said Crown which has stood down 95% of its staff is an example of the lockdown’s impact on hospitality workers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that the national cabinet would review all restrictions on May 8. He urged the public to download the COVIDSafe app to help avoid future lockdowns.
The task force, headed by Crown’s former head of gaming, meets weekly and aims to finalize its recommendations within 2 weeks. Its proposal will be handed to the state government, which will, in turn, present it to the national cabinet. The group’s members are not seeking to apply pressure on government, seeing their function as a support mechanism for government’s measures to curb outbreaks.
The effect of the economic shutdown has hurt pubs and gaming venues alike with venues like community sporting clubs that rely on daily food and drink purchases facing bleak circumstances.
Reports suggest that an indoor limit of one person for every four square meters and a 1 to 1.5-meter distance between people may be implemented. Additional measures to secure venues may include temperature-testing at entrances and spit guards to protect staff at bars. Staff may be assigned to monitor social distancing and employees will likely be put through infection control courses offered by the federal Health Department.
Australian Hotels Association CEO Paddy O’Sullivan said his organization would “be working with the Victorian government for any future reduction in restrictions of people movement, particularly around hospitality venues”.
Tabcorp and ALH declined to comment. Community Clubs Victoria and RSL Victoria did not respond by deadline.
A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said: “Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of Victorians as we work to slow the spread of coronavirus. We will follow the advice of the Chief Health Officer to determine when it is appropriate and safe for licensed venues and casinos to reopen.”
Liam Raymond Reardon, the owner of the Rising Sun Hotel in Richmond, said a July opening date would be “amazing”.
Mr. Reardon said he would only allow patrons into his pub who could prove they had downloaded the COVIDSafe app to ensure the safety of his venue. “I’m not going to let one ignorant person shut this pub down again,” he said.