Bendigo's struggling hospitality sector was dealt another blow on Monday after the Victorian government announced that indoor dance floors are to close from 11.59pm on Wednesday evening.
In a morning press conference, Health Minister Martin Foley announced new booster vaccine mandates for essential workers and said the new dance floor restrictions were a necessary health measure.
"Victoria is open and the community is encouraged to support businesses in a COVIDSafe way", he said.
"Losing indoor dance floors is a simple but important step - we know they pose an extraordinary risk of mass transmission."
However, local hospitality owners say the move will mean significant losses for their businesses.
Bendigo venue owner Andrew Lethlean said he'd have to close multiple venues and let a large number of staff go.
"With the number of COVID cases in the region our businesses have been operating at less than 20 per cent of normal operations," he said.
"Now it looks like we'll definitely have to close Metro Hotel and Tonic bar.
"Star bar might be able to stay open in the little outdoor space we have - but it's barely anything, 25 per cent - if that.
"For hospitality businesses the situation at the moment is the worst we've ever seen."
Positive COVID cases and close contact isolation requirements have added to the national hospitality staff shortage that saw many businesses close or operate without a full roster in 2020.
"We're at the stage that if we don't get some sort of support back from the government, the businesses will just fail', Mr Lethlean said.
"We can't plan anything, we can't even plan for next week at this stage, we have no idea where we're at."
An industry representative says while they understand the need for the new measures the lack of support and forward planning for the industry will have devastating consequences.
In an emergency meeting on Friday, the Australian Hotels Association came up with several requests they will put to both state and federal governemnts this week, including a financial support package for businesses and the provision of rapid antigen tests for staff.
"There's a major problem with RAT tests in our community," said Bendigo AHA representative Ray Sharawara.
"Staff can't find them or don't have the money to afford them, so we want to be able to supply them."
Following Monday mornings dance floor announcement, the AHA will add to their requests a further support package for staff that will need to be stood down as venues close indefinitely.
"We understand it's affecting everybody, but we're really struggling", Mr Sharawara said.
"It seems like everything is being done by crisis management, not by planning."
"We would've liked to have seen more forward planning from the government to have at least some contingencies in place so we can cope."
Mr Sharawara also said the AHA would welcome a reduction in quarantine requirements for close contact hospiality workers from 7 days to 5 days.
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