THE Victorian Government delaying the easing of COVID-19 restrictions could be the death knell for pubs in small towns of the Mildura electorate.
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper visited hotels in Sea Lake, Nandaly and Patchewollock this week to speak to publicans about the difficulties they were facing in light of the government’s decision on Sunday to delay easing restrictions.
Ms Cupper on Wednesday wrote directly to Premier Daniel Andrews urging him to allow restrictions to be eased in rural areas which have had few, or no, cases of the virus.
“The pub owners have specifically requested a number of different measures including reducing the 4sq/m rule to 2sq/m; allowing identification checks and the ability to refuse entry to people from outside their local government area; allowing patrons to approach the bar provided they maintain the 2sq/m rule and increasing the capacity from 20 patrons to 50,” Ms Cupper said.
“I made it clear to the Premier that country pubs in small towns are essential services. In many cases, they are the only source of social interaction for people.
“They are not just an entertainment venue, but also a meeting place to allow community members to gather and connect in both good times and bad.”
Ms Cupper said that she feared delaying the next stage of restrictions will see some of these pubs close permanently.
“This would be a disaster for these small towns,” she said.
“There are not swathes of tourists visiting these pubs – they are catering for a local clientele.”
Mr Andrews on Saturday left the door open for restrictions to be eased in rural and regional Victoria, however no further details have emerged.
Ms Cupper said many pubs had reappointed staff in preparation for a return to 50 patrons on Monday while also purchasing stock including fresh food for meals.
“These pubs can’t now stand down or lay off staff for a second time,” she said.