Thinking | 19 October 2020

What retailers should know about the latest changes in Victoria

By John Gray and Tamara Charlwood

In light of the decrease in new COVID-19 cases, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on 18 October that metropolitan Melbourne will progress to the Third Step of the government’s reopening plan (see our September update, Victoria’s re-opening plan: what it means for retailers). For some in the retail sector, such as hairdressing services, this brings instant changes. For all other retailers, there is a much anticipated opening date of 1 November 2020.

Yesterday’s relaxation of restrictions

  • Many of the previous Stage 4 restrictions persist. The key change is that members of the public can now travel within a 25km radius to shop at ‘permitted retailers’.
  • ‘Permitted retailers’, such as supermarkets, liquor stores, newsagents and pharmacies, continue to operate with a COVIDSafe Plan.
  • Hospitality still may only engage in takeaway and delivery for food and drink. This includes licensed premises like pubs, bars, clubs, nightclubs and hotels.
  • Outside of metropolitan Melbourne, regional hospitality (except for Shepparton) will be able to host up to 40 customers indoors and 70 customers outdoors.
  • As Melbourne emerges from its ‘hairy’ COVID-19 situation, hairdressing facilities are allowed to reopen with strict safety protocols.
    • Clients must wear face coverings for the duration of the hairdressing services. The regulations expressly rule out services like beard trimming around a client’s mouth, nose and cheeks since the client cannot wear face coverings like a mask.
    • Hairdressing facilities must have appropriate signage and density quotient for the indoor space.
    • They also must adhere to cleaning and record keeping requirements
    • Mobile hairdressing services are allowed to operate, but home visiting hairdressing remains prohibited.
  • Mobile or home business pet grooming services are now able to operate with some restrictions.
  • There is still no opening for indoor exercise facilities and entertainment facilities (eg theatres, cinemas, galleries, casinos, escape rooms and more) – yet broadcasts of exercise routines or entertainment performances are possible.

Forthcoming relaxation of restrictions

In a pre-Christmas win, metropolitan Melbourne will take a big Third Step, which is tentatively pencilled in for 11.59 pm on Sunday 1 November.

  • Mr Andrews announced all retail will be allowed to open, subject to restrictions. It is not clear the exact legislative conditions that will apply.
  • Following on from the changes to hairdressing services, beauty and personal care services will return where mask wearing is possible.
  • Hospitality will be allowed to serve a maximum of 20 people indoors and 50 people outside. Presumably this will be subject to density quotients, similar to the legislative conditions we saw in the temporary opening in June.
  • Outdoor seated entertainment will also be allowed to operate, which may include venues such as open air cinemas, with a maximum of 50 people or 25% of the fixed seat capacity.
  • All of these businesses can have staff onsite for a ‘dark opening’ from 28 October 2020, in preparation for opening to the public. Although it is a tight turnaround, this is great news in light of the oncoming Christmas season rush.

Reaction from the sector

  • The change in restrictions and the new timeline have been welcomed by the retail sector, with hope that the forthcoming 2 November changes might kick in early if all goes well.
  • The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has issued a media release in which CEO Paul Zahra considers that the opening up slated for 2 November 2020 will bring enormous relief to retailers. In particular, the early ‘dark opening’ will be just in time for the official start of the Christmas shopping period and ‘is a clear sign the government has listened to advice from the sector’.
  • Despite the elation in the Victorian community about the new and forthcoming changes, there has been some criticism in the Australian Financial Review about plans (or the lack thereof) for potential economic recovery.[1]
  • If you would like to discuss how the Melbourne COVID restrictions are impacting your retail business, please contact a member of our Retail & FMCG team.
  • The ARA has also prepared Reopening Guidelines to provide practical guidance for retailers.




John Gray

John is a corporate lawyer specialising in technology and IP law, particularly for IT, telecommunications and media clients.

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