Update: Non-Essential Retail and use of Gaming Machine Areas

As we are all aware, Victoria is scheduled to hit its 80% vaccination target over the coming weekend and the State Government has announced that the next easing of restrictions will take place at 6:00pm on Friday 29 October 2021.

As with all previous changes of restrictions, the formal directions from the DHHS are not published until the moment those changes come into effect – which means that we expect the formal directions to be issued at around 6:00pm tomorrow. Understandably, there has been some concerns with what practices and procedures operators need to have in place from Friday evening with such short notice.

Among those are two (2) key questions that our office has heard a lot this week, that is:

  1. Will non-essential retail have to ensure all staff and patrons are fully vaccinated from Friday (in the same manner that the hospitality industry had to be); and
  2. When gaming machine areas re-open in metropolitan Melbourne, will the easing of restrictions include a mandatory 1.5m spacing of gaming machines, or will those restrictions fall away.

Non-Essential Retail

In yesterday’s press conference, Jeroen Weimar confirmed that staff and customers of non-essential retail will not be required to be fully vaccinated when these retail settings reopen on Friday at 6:00pm. This put to rest a lot of uncertainty and contradictory statements from the Premier and the Health Minister on Sunday and Monday.

Requirements that staff and customers be fully vaccinated are not expected to apply to non-essential retail until the 90% vaccination target is reached. This is expected to occur on or around 24 November 2021.  

This means that staff and patrons of pro shops, bottle shops and other non-essential retail settings will not be required to be fully vaccinated until the 90% vaccination target is reached. This is frustratingly inconsistent with the hospitality guidelines, but may come as a relief for operators who are using partially vaccinated staff to work at pro shops and bottle shops as part of a wider hospitality premises.

Non-essential retail settings must still ensure customers complete the required QR code check in and wear masks indoors, and staff must still have had at least one dose of vaccine in accordance with the Vaccination Mandate.

Gaming Machine Areas

We understand from a number of sources that spacing requirements will not apply to gaming machine areas when these reopen on Friday – and that the spacing requirements will also fall away in regional Victoria.

The use of gaming machine areas will still be subject to the indoor density quotient limit for that space (1 person per 4 sqm), and this may remain a limiting factor for use of the area, but this will not effect the number of machines that operators can have in operation.

While this is our understanding we cannot confirm this is the case until the Directions are published – the industry has become all too familiar about last-minute changes.

Release of new directions

We will provide confirmation of the above advice when the new Directions are released on Friday evening, with a more comprehensive summary of any other changes to restrictions to be published next week.

We will continue to address any ad hoc questions you may have and we will endeavour to provide timely responses to urgent queries.

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.