Restaurant News

“Unlock” the hospitality industry: an open letter to the state government by Victorian operators

“We do not take the health of Victorians lightly. But we believe the industry can safely reopen sooner than this road map specifies.”

By Yvonne C Lam
Top row: Mallory Wall, Di Stasio Restaurants; Andrew McConnell, Trader House Restaurants; Alla Wolf-Tasker AM, Lakehouse and Dairy Flat Farm. Bottom row: Scott Pickett, Pickett & Co; Hannah Green, Etta; Guy Grossi, Grossi Restaurants.
Nearly 40 hospitality industry leaders have signed an open letter that calls for the Victorian government to "unlock" the hospitality sector, and fast-track the reopening of cafés, restaurants and bars.
In response to the state government's five-step roadmap to a new "COVID normal", 37 industry leaders, including chefs Alla Wolf-Tasker, Guy Grossi, Karen Martini, Andrew McConnell and Scott Pickett, and restaurateurs Hannah Green and Frank Van Haandel, are advocating for the industry to open under stage-two restrictions. This means allowing up to 50 patrons for outdoor dining, and 50 patrons in enclosed spaces, with appropriate density requirements, recording of customers' contact details, and strict sanitation measures in place.
It's an ambitious plan. From today, just two people can gather outdoors for a maximum of two hours of social interaction; by September 28, the threshold for public gatherings increases to five people from two households. According to the roadmap, October 26 is the earliest scheduled date for venues to open with outdoor seating only. By November 23, if there are no new COVID-19 cases for two weeks, venues can seat up to 50 diners inside.
November is a long way off. And staying silent, says Green, is not an option. "We're trying to have our voices heard," she says. "We just want more transparency on what we can do to open sooner rather than later."
The dining room at Etta. Photo: Sharyn Cairns
The open letter – authorised by Change Victoria, a not-for-profit organisation that says it's unaffiliated with a political party – does not detail a proposed date for this reopening. However, it states the current timeline is "too strict", and should balance public health concerns with jobs and livelihoods that depend on the once-bustling industry.
"Reopening safely is paramount," says Hannah Green of Etta, a restaurant in Melbourne's Brunswick East. "Hospitality operators work in a highly regulated industry anyway, where health and safety is always a priority. [But] how can we have more of a dialogue about reopening sooner, instead of this blanket rule?"
In the meantime, Green has been lobbying for her local council to allow for outdoor dining. But she concedes with Melbourne's notoriously inclement weather, outdoor dining is just a band-aid solution for an industry in strife. "It's four seasons in one day. We can't have that as our sole purpose of trade."
Like many other Melbourne operators, Green has opened and closed her Brunswick East eatery multiple times since March. The business ran a takeaway trade and converted to a grocery and wine store, before reopening – briefly – as a restaurant in July. Rent relief from her landlord has allowed her to close her business during stage-four restrictions, and for Green and her staff to go into "hibernation".
"I count my lucky stars, but who knows what it'll be like in 12 months," says Green. "I am hopeful. I do think we will come out of it. But the longer this goes on, the harder it's going to be."
The open letter is available to read in full, below.
The letter is accompanied by an e-petition to the Victorian Legislative Council, which can be viewed and signed online. Only Victorian residents are eligible to sign the petition.

An Open Letter to The Hon Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria

Business owners and workers in the hospitality industry understand the need for caution when it comes to COVID-19. We do not take the health of Victorians lightly. But we believe the industry can safely reopen sooner than this road map specifies. We want to save jobs and livelihoods, to mitigate the negative impact on mental health, and help bolster the Victorian economy during this dire time.
Hospitality is more than cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs. It encompasses farmers, fishers, bakers, growers, butchers and artisan suppliers, as well as stallholders, wholesalers, truck drivers, and factory and warehouse workers. Our industry is a major contributor to the Victorian economy, and more importantly, it's a cornerstone of the character of our state. When tourists talk about Melbourne and Victoria, they talk about our cafe culture, pubs, fine diners, markets and wineries, which are among the best in the world. Our hospitality industry should be revered as a state treasure.
We have complied with government training and guidelines for COVID-19. We respect the care that has been put into plans that limit the spread of coronavirus, such as the accredited COVID-19 officers and contact tracing. We want to work with the government and public-health experts to control cluster outbreaks and protect our state. We are committed to best practices. But we feel it's time the Victorian government actually engaged with the industry to develop a realistic road map specific to hospitality, in order for us to reopen safely and allow our businesses to recover. We believe the current timeline is too strict. States such as NSW are reopening safely and monitoring clusters effectively with thorough contact tracing.
We are calling on the Victorian government to make the following accommodations earlier:
Indoor Trading
A maximum of 50 patrons per enclosed space, observing social distancing, density requirements, contact recording and appropriate sanitisation.
Outdoor Trading
Maximum of 50 patrons per outdoor area, observing social distancing, density requirements,
contact recording and appropriate sanitisation.
We are partnering with Change Victoria on this campaign, which calls for hospitality to be "unlocked" and encourages Victorians to take a selfie in front of their favourite local cafe, bar, restaurant or pub and post it on social media with the hashtag #ItsTime. We're also painting Melbourne pink – you'll see the Posters in venues and all over the city.
The campaign includes a petition to parliament, which can be viewed at
Alla Wolf-Tasker AM, Lakehouse and Dairy Flat Farm
Andrew Joy and Travis Howe, Carlton Wine Room
Andrew McConnell, Trader House Restaurants
Cam Jackson, Nevermind Bar
Con Christopoulos. European Group
Karen Martini and Michael Sapountsis, Mr Wolf
Chris Lucas, Lucas Restaurants
Fiona Perkins & Michael Bacash
Frank and Xavier Dimattina, Il Gambero and Bluetrain
Frank Van Haandel, Stokehouse
Geoff Lindsay, Dandelion
Hannah Green, Etta
Hayden Burbank, Morris Jones
Jason Chang, Calia
Jean-Paul Prunetti, France Soir
Julian Gerner, Morgan's Sorrento
Kate and Mykal Bartholomew, Adam D'Sylva, Tonka & Coda.
Kathy, Jacques, Natalie, Edouard and Antoine Reymond, L'Hôtel Gitan and Bistro Gitan
Lino Scidone, La Camera
Liz Rodriguez and Guy Grossi, Grossi Restaurants
Mallory Wall and Rinaldo Di Stasio, Di Stasio Restaurants
Matteo Pignatelli, Matteo's Restaurant
Michael Thiele, Hardimans Hotel
Nick Stanton, Leonardo's Pizza Palace
Rene and Jason McConnell, Dave Parker, San Telmo Group
Paul Dimattina, Lamaro's Hotel
Paul Olynyk, Public House Group
Paul Wilson, Mr Wilson
Rabih Yanni, Botanical Hotel
Scott Pickett, Pickett & Co
Teague Ezard, Gingerboy
Tom Walker, Bleakhouse Hotel
Authorised by Stuart Eaton for Change Victoria Incorporated, Level 27, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne.
This article was updated on 15 September, 9.29am, to reflect more information about Change Victoria. The original sentence read: The open letter – authorised by Change Victoria, a not-for-profit organisation that's unaffiliated with a political party – does not detail a proposed date for this reopening.
  • undefined: Yvonne C Lam