AN KEY central Victorian tourism industry has been left largely without government support as it struggles to recoup losses from the COVID-19 closure.
Many wineries in Bendigo and Heathcote say they are unable to access thousands of dollars of business support, due to their status as producers.
But wine growers say hospitality through cellar door venues is a key part of their business, severely curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions.
Winemakers' peak body Vine Victoria says many businesses are ineligible for grants under the state government's hospitality business grant program or its licensed hospitality venue fund.
They were already ineligible for the third round of the business support fund, which gave grants between $10,000 and $20,000.
Winemakers believe this is because they are classified as a producer, despite obtaining food service licences from their local council.
Vinea Marson assistant winemaker Madeleine Marson said it was challenging to miss out on funding.
Ms Marson said most businesses like Vinea Marson had a class two or three food service licence, but operated under a producers liquor licence.
She said funding would help the business adapt to the hospitality guidelines for re-opening, for instance allowing them to buy shade umbrellas to create a comfortable outdoor dining space.
Ms Marson said a lack of grant funding would just make it harder to get a successful summer the business needed to recover.
"We've been closed like all other hospitality venues," she said.
"While we've seen great growth in our online network, it still hasn't replaced what we had in our cellar door.
"We're happy to work according to those guidelines, but the fund that's meant to help us get there, isn't available for us."
Bendigo Winegrowers Association president Wes Vine said it was an oversight not to include wineries.
Mr Vine said winereries were operating under the same conditions as other hospitality businesses, despite having a producers liquor license.
He said his business had a class two food service permit from the council, making them as qualified as any other cafe or restaurant with a general licence.
Mr Vine said the liquor licence management portal invited eligible businesses to apply, but he hadn't received one.
Peak body chair Angie Bradbury said Wine Victoria's members were currently ineligible for funding under the state government's business resilience package.
Ms Bradbury said Wine Victoria was advocating to the government to widen eligibility to allow wineries to access support.
A Victorian Government spokesperson said wineries and cellar doors were eligible for the hospitality business grant program, provided they met the criteria.
They said wineries and cellar doors with an eligible liquor licence would receive an invitation to apply to the licensed hospitality venue fund.
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