Regional Victorian businesses must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure they don’t serve Melbourne customers

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Melbourne residents travelling to regional Victoria on work permits or for other lawful reasons are being warned they cannot sit down in a regional pub, cafe, restaurant or other venue.

From this morning, regional businesses must take reasonable steps to confirm a customer is from regional Victoria before allowing them to sit down in their premises.

Those who fail to check customers’ IDs face a fine of $9,913.

The crackdown aims to prevent an outbreak like the one that occurred in Kilmore, 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, at the start of the month.

Cowwarr Hotel publican Jarrod Michael said the threat of fines was “politics on the fly” and admitted he had not been checking everyone’s IDs because most of his customers were familiar to him.

“I guess that’s the burden on business now, to check not just identification for those people appearing a little bit young, but any person would now require driver’s licence or proof of address,” he said.

Mr Michael said the fine was inappropriately high.

“That would wind me up nicely — I would be finished in a couple of days,” he said.

“We started this business debt-free and we are already quite into our overdraft.

“I guess I would just take the principle that most of our crooks do these days, not pay the fine and try and look at doing the jail time.”

Mr Michael said his pub is licensed to hold 130 people outside and 179 inside.

“So we are at less than 50 per cent capacity, we have to seat all those people, there is no dancing, masks have to be worn when they walk to the toilet etc, etc,” he said.

“So there is a burden on the business to put extra staff on as ‘COVID marshals’ or whatever tag you want to give them.”

Burden on regional businesses ‘unfair’

Apollo Bay Bakery co-owner Sally Cannon said she was angry and upset when she heard of the new fine.

“There has been quite a lot of Melbourne people staying in Apollo Bay and I would imagine throughout other parts of regional Victoria that have been here since the first lockdown,” she said.

“So obviously their licences will say Melbourne but we know they have been in Apollo Bay supporting us and other local businesses since March and I am not quite sure now, all of a sudden, do we have to refuse them?

“Also, we still see people from Melbourne coming through who are legitimately allowed to be here, tradespeople, delivery drivers, farmers and permit holders, what is the ruling with them if they want to come in and buy food from us and sit out the front and eat?”

Ms Cannon said she felt all businesses were already going “above and beyond” to keep regional Victoria safe.

“I just think regional businesses throughout regional Victoria have done absolutely everything that’s been asked of them during this pandemic and then to have the threat of a $10,000 fine above our head if we are deemed to have not been taking reasonable precautions, it is just unnecessary stress,” she said.

“If they are wanting to fine someone, fine the person who is doing the wrong thing.”

Ms Cannon said she would write to the Premier Daniel Andrews seeking clarification.

“We have a QR code that the customer scans and that comes back to us, we get an email with their name and phone number and whether or not they are from metropolitan Melbourne,” she said.

ID checks ‘confronting’ for hospitality staff

Corey ver Steegen, who manages a cafe in the Ballarat CBD, said communicating and enforcing the screening rules was challenging.

“We’ll probably just do it over Facebook, just to send out a simple message, ‘hey, these are the new rules that are in place, if anyone has any issues, come and talk to us in person,” Mr ver Steegen said.

“But it’s absolutely confronting for a customer, [for us to say] ‘oh sorry, we don’t know you, where are you from?'”

“I think from a policies and procedures perspective, it’s going to be easy to implement, but it’s more the confrontation face-to-face that’s going to be the issue, with some of the younger staff members, or even myself as the manager, having to deal with those sorts of situations, it’s confronting and difficult.”

By Kellie Lazzaro (Original ABC Article)