Victorian venues launch petition for extra support around COVID roadmap

The Save Our Scene coalition has criticised the Andrews Government for not outlining in its COVID roadmap when venue capacity restrictions will be removed

Victorian venues are lobbying the state government for additional clarity around its recently released roadmap to easing restrictions.

The Save Our Scene coalition has launched a new petition requesting details around what targets need to be met in order to remove capacity restrictions, as well as financial support for music businesses and workers until full capacities have returned.

“Unlike many countries overseas that have restarted their live music and club sectors, Victorian music venues are simply not in the picture when it comes to economic recovery,” the statement reads.

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“After 19 months of effective lockdown, we have nothing but fear and uncertainty ahead. We cannot plan for a ‘COVID normal’ future and prepare to get back to work.”

Melbourne’s lockdown is expected to end this Thursday (October 21) when 70 per cent of residents aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated statewide. At that point, venues, pubs and clubs in metropolitan Melbourne can open to up to 50 fully vaccinated patrons outdoors. Pubs and clubs can also open to 20 fully vaccinated patrons indoors.

When 80 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, expected around November 5, indoor entertainment venues statewide can host up to 150 fully vaccinated residents, subject to a density quotient of one person per four square metres. Outdoor venues will be capped at 50 per cent if non-seated, or the lesser of 25 per cent of 5,000 people if seated.

There is currently no indication from the Andrews government of when indoor venues can ease their capacity limits beyond this point.

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“You can have up to 150 people, but only if your venue is over 600 square metres – that’s the Forum. Most venues cannot open at all at that level, and no venue can trade sustainably,” the Save Our Scene statement continued.

“Even at one person per two square metres, we cannot survive. For most venues, that is 30 per cent of our normal trading capacity. We may be open, but we will be bleeding out slowly.”

Speaking to NME, Simone Ubaldi, venue operator at The Croxton, said venue managers are “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to reopening. Additionally, the Melbourne venue has no intention of reopening at the 80 per cent double dose mark.

“We can’t afford to trade at one person per four [square metres], which is about 15 per cent of our normal capacity,” she said.

“At one per two [square metres]… we did hold shows earlier in the year where we were able to get back to that level at about 30 per cent of our normal capacity, and we lost money on every show.”

Ubaldi also explained financial support from the state government is lacking, particularly for music industry businesses that aren’t hospitality venues.

“We campaigned last year for the Venues Fund from the Victorian Government, which was really very welcomed and took us through to January in terms of how it was costed and supported venues. There was no support for music industry workers or music industry businesses,” Ubaldi said.

“There are a whole bunch of people who have either left the industry or who have fallen on incredibly hard times. Mental health issues are endemic because there’s no consideration given to the fact that, while the rest of the state might be open, the music industry remains closed and has been in an effective lockdown for 19 months.”

Alongside its petition, Save Our Scene has launched a merchandise collection, with all proceeds going towards campaign costs and any surplus donated to Support Act.

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