Cobram dining venues react to latest easing of restrictions

By Liam Nash

Cobram's dining venues will be allowed to host patrons from Thursday following the Victorian Government’s announcement to move to step three of its coronavirus recovery plan - but there is a catch.

Mainly outdoor dining will be permitted, with a cap of 50 seated patrons a venue, and an updated ‘two square metre’ density limit in place.

Indoors, venues can open with a cap of 10 seated customers per space – with up to two spaces per venue – and in line with the existing ‘four square metre’ density rule.

Tables must be at least 1.5 m apart, cleaned after every customer and the details of all patrons must be kept.

Cobram Top Pub owner Adam Rudd said while the news was positive, some of the surrounding criteria created new headaches.

“We have only been given 48 hours to prepare to open which is not enough time, but at least by next week we'll be trading,” he said.

“It makes it difficult, but then again it is better than nothing. Now we just have to hope the weather plays its part as obviously the climate plays a huge part with outdoor dining.”

Mr Rudd said certainty had been few and far between throughout the past months.

Adapting to suit the varying regulations has been a part of Mr Rudd’s life as a business owner throughout 2020; and that won’t change just yet.

“It has been a battle, the Central and Bottom pubs have closed but we have been hanging on. We have had to diversify as much as we can,” he said.

“Now we will have to invest in outdoor furniture, lighting and all those sorts of things.”

But though small, it is a win for the industry.

Mr Rudd was pleasantly surprised by response from The Top Pub’s customers following the announcement, mentioning it was his prerogative to serve the community as best he could.

“People have already been ringing in trying to book which is great, but are we going to be ready by Thursday? I don’t know,” he said.

“We will open as soon as we can, because we know people want to support and we want to provide that service for them.

“We are heading in the right direction and it is the first bit of good news we have had in about six months.”

Similarly, The Orchard 3644 owner Alison Hewitt welcomed the easing of restrictions, but said the proposal didn’t offer much flexibility for small cafes like hers.

“We can only put two tables outside, which only allows four to eight more people at a time. Hopefully if everyone can do what they’re told we can move forward to dine-in,” she said.

“Staffing levels are also part of it, it is hard to know what to do. Obviously when business picks up, we will need more staff, but without the money we can’t hire them.

“We will just have to roll with it and see what happens.”

While the going has been tough lately, Mrs Hewitt said her customer base has helped the business ride out COVID-19 so far.

“We have been hanging in there, luckily we have had quite a few of our loyal customers coming in but even that has dropped off due to the border closure,” she said.

“However, we’d like to thank all our customers for continuing to come in, hopefully we will be able to see you all for dine-in in future.”

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