Update: Lockdown to end in Mildura, Clarification regarding re-opening requirements, Business Support

With the lockdowns in metropolitan Melbourne to end at 11:59pm tonight and restrictions to ease statewide, there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding some of the precise operational requirements for businesses in Victoria.

We will be able to provide a more comprehensive update tomorrow morning when the formal directions are published, but we have endeavoured to address some queries that have been raised over the past few days.

Lockdown to end in Mildura

Mildura’s lockdown will end at 11:59pm tonight – one day earlier than forecast. Mildura’s restrictions will then be at the same as those in place in the rest of regional Victoria, including the further easing of restrictions.

Clarification regarding re-opening requirements

Following questions posed by journalists in recent press conferences, the Victorian Government has indicated the following:

  1. The 9:00pm curfew will lift at 11:59pm tonight when the new Directions come into place. Initially, DHHS advised that workers could not leave home after curfew to prepare venues for reopening but common sense has since prevailed so that staff can ‘break’ curfew tonight to attend work. Customers, however, cannot leave home until 12 midnight to patronise venues or to ‘queue up’. Again, the DHHS has implored a common sense approach to the interim period, rather than trying to explore ‘loopholes’.
  2. Staff in the hair and beauty industry are required to be fully vaccinated. This is consistent with the requirements for the hospitality industry – which is that where all patrons have to be fully vaccinated the same is required of staff.
  3. The Victorian Government is not considering changing the requirement that hospitality workers be fully vaccinated either in the short or medium term, even if some venues are unable to sufficiently staff venues for re-opening.
  4. Customers in the beauty industry are able to remove masks when required for the provision of certain services, such as for facials.

Vaccination Requirements – age

A common question that has been raised is whether full vaccination requirements apply to patrons who are 16 years and up, or 12 years and up.

It is our understanding at this time that children under 16 years old will not need to provide proof of vaccination status when entering businesses as long as they are accompanied by fully vaccinated parents or guardians.

This is consistent with advice from industry groups, as well as with the vaccination requirements for patrons in venues that participated in the ‘vaccinated economy trial’.

It is not clear if unaccompanied minors have to show proof of vaccination status.

We will confirm this when the new directions are published overnight.

Bottle shops

Another common query is whether the requirements for hospitality staff to be double vaccinated applies to bottle shops where they form part of a licensed premises (i.e. a hotel with drive through bottle shop).

It is our opinion that staff who work only on the bottle shop on a particular shift are not required to be fully vaccinated. However, they must have had one dose of the vaccine in order to comply with the Vaccine Mandate directions.

Similarly, staff at separate accommodation facilities are not currently required to be fully vaccinated. Other support staff, including security or contractors that are present at licensed premises for other support functions, have not been confirmed as having to be fully vaccinated.

We stress again, this remains subject to the issue of the new Directions to be released tonight. We will continue to monitor these changes and will provide updated information based on the Directions when these are released.

Function Rooms as separate areas

Business Victoria’s website currently indicates that in regional Victoria, private function rooms within licensed facilities are only considered as separate spaces when they have separate facilities such as toilets and separate entrances. Otherwise, these licensed premises are considered as one venue for the purpose of capacity limits.

We expect that this will also be the case for businesses in metropolitan Melbourne. Where a function room is being treated as a separate facility, it should have its own toilets and entrance, and a separate QR check-in.

This remains subject to any changes contained in the Directions when they are released.

If you have any specific questions regarding whether you can operate parts of your premises as distinct and separate ‘areas’ please contact our office to discuss.

Business Support

We understand that the grants under the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund will continue until mid-November but they are expected to drop to 75% by early November. We will provide further information about changes to these payments when further announcements are made.

The Victorian Government has also announced that a COVIDSafe Outdoor Activation Voucher Program. A press statement is attached.

Under this program, eligible businesses, community organisations, not-for-profits and trader associations can receive grants of $2,000 when they spend at least that amount to support initiatives including outdoor hospitality and entertainment.

Businesses in both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will be eligible, with 20% of these grants being allocated to businesses in regional Victoria, and businesses such as hairdressers, beauty services, retail shops, dance studios and gyms will be eligible alongside hospitality businesses. This scheme will be delivered by Business Victoria.

A COVIDSafe Outdoor Activiation Fund will also be provided to local Councils, to be used to support businesses using outdoor areas. Councils are encouraged to use part of this funding to waive permit fees and related charges and will be required to agree not to create or impose any new or net additional fees or charges to businesses to use new or upgraded outdoor spaces.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.