An ex-AFL star-turned pub owner has made an impassioned and emotional plea to the Victorian Premier about a roadmap he says is “a plan to divide” rather than a plan to rebuild.
Paul Dimattina, who played with the Western Bulldogs before taking ownership of Lamaro’s Hotel in South Melbourne, is among devastated small business owners left reeling after Daniel Andrews revealed his plan to get Melbourne out of stage four restrictions.
“It’s sort of gobsmacking,” he told Sky News. “We’ve sacrificed for six months … we are doing it tough.
“This is not a plan to rebuild. It’s not a plan to open. This is a plan to destroy and divide.”
The Premier yesterday revealed the details for metropolitan Melbourne where businesses have been forced to close their doors for more than a month in order to get coronavirus cases back under control.
The roadmap for bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants — the heart and soul of a vibrant city known around the world for its coffee and food culture — doesn’t offer anything in the immediate future.
Those businesses will remain takeaway-only until Victoria essentially eradicates COVID-19 with zero new daily cases for two weeks running, something Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says is achievable in late November.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Guerra says not only is he disappointed by Sunday’s announcement, he is shocked.
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“My text messages and emails went off from the hospitality sector, tourist sector, but it has been mum and dad operators, the small business owners, the shops on High Street,” he told Today.
“They have been told nothing is for them for at least another eight weeks and that is really hard to swallow in an environment where they have been in lockdown in some cases for five weeks and up to eight weeks in some cases.”
Mr Guerra said he was involved in discussions with the government prior to the rollout of the plan. He expected a very different announcement.
“We were working in collaboration with the government and other industries in the course of the week,” he said.
“There were really good COVID-safe plans put up hoping industry could get going. We didn’t see that yesterday — aside from manufacturing and construction, which is a glimmer of hope for workers that will get going in two weeks time. We want all Victorians back to work and we want to save as many businesses as we can.”
‘MELBOURNE IS ON ITS KNEES’
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp made an impassioned plea on Monday afternoon for Mr Andrews to reconsider what his roadmap means for the city.
“Our city is on its knees, with business hanging on by a thread and the community anxious about the future,” she wrote on Twitter.
“We must work urgently together: this is not the time for delay or division. We are talking about people’s lives and livelihoods.
“On behalf of business owners and workers in Melbourne, I am calling on the State Government to work with us urgently on two things: 1. Immediate additional financial assistance for businesses prevented from operating due to restrictions and 2. A commitment to continuous review and a more flexible approach which allows businesses to reopen sooner in a COVID-responsible way.”
Ms Capp wrote that retail and hospitality businesses should be able to open sooner than the roadmap allows if case numbers drop more rapidly than has been predicted.
“I am also calling for consistency. If the national definition for hotspots is 10 cases per day for 3 days, why not use this benchmark for reopening businesses and industries such as retail and hospitality?” she wrote.
‘YOU COULDN’T PUBLISH WHAT I THINK’
Leasa Cassai, who owns a hair salon in Melbourne’s north, told news.com.au she had lost faith and trust in the Andrews Government to keep businesses afloat.
The Northcote-based mother-of-three was devastated when she saw the Andrews Government’s plan.
“Basically you couldn’t publish the words I think of the roadmap,” she said.
“I have no faith or trust in this government to give us the security of an opening date. I have currently closed all my bookings and putting all my clients on a waitlist and will contact them when we reopen. I cannot reschedule bookings again.”
Ms Cassai said rescheduling appointments was like “a game of Tetris”.
“Will I survive? Yes, because I’m a fighter and I’ve been through worse. But the next seven weeks will be tough if we don’t get support and the Federal Government doesn’t extend the full Jobkeeper payments for Victoria.
“Basically, for the next seven weeks, my business bills go unpaid.”
Hers is a sentiment expressed by many Victorians who have been rocked by the news from the Premier and his CHO.
They are frustrated after weeks of lockdown and worried they’re business won’t be viable when the time comes to reopen.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison shared his thoughts on the Victoria’s Premier’s plan and one thing stood out to him.
“What I can’t help but be struck by is that under the thresholds set out in that (Victorian Government) plan, Sydney would be under curfew now,” he said on Monday.
“Sydney doesn’t need to be under curfew now.”