Save Our Scene: ‘There is no roadmap to reopening Victoria’s music venues’

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Save Our Scene: ‘There is no roadmap to reopening Victoria’s music venues’

Northcote Social Club
Northcote Social Club - photo by Ian Laidlaw
Words by Lucas Radbourne

Save Our Scene, the collective representing over 100 iconic Melbourne venues, has criticised the Victorian government's roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Victorian government released its plan to phase the state out of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on Sunday, with dated steps to reopen the economy incrementally from late October.

However, the roadmap has frustrated a collective of Melbourne’s most prominent bars, clubs and live music venues, which are concerned about the lack of a final stage: reopening dates without density quotas.

What you need to know

  • The last step of the Victorian government’s lockdown roadmap still has density quotas
  • Save Our Scene say under those quotes, venues still won’t be able to reopen
  • Under current rules, venues won’t be able to reopen at full capacity until well into 2022

Stay up to date with what’s happening in Melbourne here.

“There is no roadmap to reopening Victoria’s music venues,” Save Our Scene’s statement read.

“The current roadmap ends at a one-person-per-four-metres square density quotient for venues, which is a fraction of our normal licensed capacity.

“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.”

Indicative dates in the Victorian state government roadmap include:

  • 26 September: 80 per cent of Victorians expected to have had at least one vaccination dose. This is Phase A of the National Plan.
  • 26 October: 70 per cent of Victorians expected to have had both vaccination doses. This is Phase B of the National Plan and lockdown will end in Melbourne.
  • 5 November: 80 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over expected to have had both vaccination doses. This is Phase C of the National Plan, and regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne will come together under the same rules.
  • 19 November: once 80 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, restrictions will align with Phase D of the National Plan.

Save Our Scene’s uncertainty stems from the fact that Phase D of the federal government’s national plan is vague on which restrictions may still be in place.

For instance, the state government has confirmed that Victorians will still be unable to have more than 30 home visitors by December 25, when the state will have technically been under federal rules for more than a month.

When will Melbourne clubs, bars and pubs reopen?

Phase C of the federal government’s national plan still includes “baseline restrictions” such as density quotas, while Phase D – despite including opening Australia’s international borders – doesn’t directly rule out such restrictions continuing.

Both plans, for the time being, give no additional certainty to Save Our Scene’s venues – including most of Melbourne’s most famous pubs, clubs and live music stalwarts – of a reopening date.

“Yet again, we have been brushed aside with vague assurances that there will be a plan for us at some point, but no one knows when,” their statement continued.

“We don’t know if there will be ongoing funding to support our sector while we remain in effective lockdown, and we can’t plan ahead for when we come out. We can’t schedule shows for when restrictions ease and funding support inevitably falls off a cliff.

“This lack of certainty impacts everyone in our sector, not just venues but artists, bookers, promoters, technicians, PA suppliers, publicists and everyone else in the music industry supply chain. We have effectively been in lockdown since March 2020. So many people have given up hope and to be left off the map – again – is crushing to an already decimated sector.

“We need clarity. We need transparency. We need to be part of the plan.”