Just days ahead of its start date, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has been postponed in the wake of heightened community concern surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Federal Government's recommendation to restrict all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people.
On Friday afternoon, the organisers of the annual festival, which features more than 140 food and wine events over 11 days, have made the difficult decision to delay the event till later this year.
"We understand that news of this postponement will be a great disappointment to our guests. Everyone in our organisation is heartbroken by this turn of events," said Anthea Loucas Bosha, CEO of Food + Wine Victoria. "The investment in the festival from the hospitality industry, from partners, sponsors, suppliers, volunteers and staff has been tremendous, and this decision has been made with great reluctance and the utmost seriousness.
"If another responsible course of action was available to us we'd have pursued it, but under the circumstances we cannot proceed.
"We are extremely proud of the program we'd brought to market with the hospitality industry of Victoria, and of the enthusiastic response it received from people around the world. The festival has been a mainstay of Melbourne's major events calendar for more than 28 years, and it remains committed to celebrating the food and drink of Victoria."
The festival was scheduled to run from March 19 to 29. The program was headlined by international culinary stars including Alison Roman, Fuchsia Dunlop and Jacques Reymond, as well as Australian chefs O Tama Carey, Mat Lindsay and Josh Niland.
Festival organisers say they will work through the ticketing arrangements, including refunds, with guests and partners in the weeks to come.
In addition, South Australia's Tasting Australia festival has been postponed. In a join statement, festival director Simon Bryant and Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed said the decision was made "out of an abudance of caution."
"We want to ensure a spectacular, and importantly, safe experience for all. In light of today's announcement, we would not have been able to deliver the experience that Tasting Australia patrons have come to expect or deserve to receive," they said in the statement.
Tasting Australia, which was scheduled to run from March 27 to April 5, is slated to be postponed till October or November this year. Once the new event date is confirmed, the organisers will provide the opportunity for all current ticketholders to transfer the date of their tickets or receive a refund.
Today, organisers of the Flinders Island Food & Cray Festival have announced the event has been cancelled. "It is with a heavy heart that we are cancelling the Food & Crayfish Festival. However, we are a remote, isolated community with limited health services which are major reasons for taking this step," said Flinders Island Business Incorporated president Michael Buck in a statement.
Festival-goers will receive a full refund on their tickets which will be processed over the next two weeks.