Owners of two big restaurants in Oakleigh’s famous Hellenic precinct in Eaton Mall, this week welcomed the State Government’s easing of coronavirus trading rules with both saying they will reopen next Monday 1 June for inside dining.

The owners of the iconic restaurants Melissa Oakleigh and Kentro also encouraged the small eateries which, by virtue of their small physical size couldn’t meet the government’s strict reopening rules, to persevere.

Nikolas Katsakis, the owner of Melissa Oakleigh at one end of Eton Mall, said the state government had placed many conditions on restaurants reopening and the eatery was using this opportunity to be innovative.

He said instead of taking down every customer’s details as required, the restaurant was designing its own app that patrons could scan when they entered the eatery.

“The government has asked for drastic measures,” Mr Katsakis said.

“We’ve designed something ourselves.”

He said the app would be less intrusive and if it were successful, the restaurant could offer it to other businesses.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews announced last Sunday, 17 May, that cafes, restaurants and hospitality venues can reopen on 1 June provided they adhered to certain conditions.

The far-reaching and strict conditions include one person per 4 square metres, people being 1.5m apart, taking the details of every customer, temperature checks, extra cleaning and staff health screening.

READ MORE: Banks, rents and rates still problems for Oakleigh traders

Mr Katsakis said his restaurant would open next Monday, 1 June, at 8am and would run through to 10pm, with a limited menu. His restaurant would be able to accommodate 20 customers inside the restaurant in order to adhere with the 4 sq metre rule with patrons to be 1.5 petres apart. He added they were examining the rules to see if the restaurant could seat any customers outside the eatery.

He said the best way to book a seat at his restaurant was through social media or telephone.

Mr Katsakis said he welcomed the Government’s phased reopening of hospitality businesses like his.

“It’s necessary,” he said

“It’s very hard for a business of our size to open up overnight. It’s a stepping stone. We need $50,000 to open the door to full capacity.”

Mr Katsakis said by contrast with the staged reopening next Monday, he only needed a few $1000 to open.

Melissa Oakleigh, which also has restaurants in other suburbs, was first established in Melbourne in 1969. An experienced restaurateur, Mr Katsakis said he was optimistic about the future and advised the smaller eateries to “hang in there.”

The president of the Oakleigh Village Traders Association (OVTA) and owner of Kentro restaurant Anna Sfrantzis said the government’s reopening rules and restrictions were lacking.

“It’s not a very sensible thing,” Ms Sfrantzis said. “How do you argue it?”

She said there were inconsistencies between businesses as she went to Chadestone Shopping Centre, situated in the adjoining suburb to Oakleigh, last Saturday 23 May and there were crowds. Yet restaurants like hers were limited to 20 people inside their establishment, she said.

“It’s just not enough people for such a big shop,” Ms Sfrantzis said.

As well as a ground floor restaurant, Kentro has an upstairs function room able to seat up to 200.

Ms Sfrantzis said her restaurant, in the middle of Eaton Mall, would open next Monday, at 7am until 11pm, with a full menu and people could book by telephone or online.

READ MORE: Lockdown in Oakleigh – a Melburnian Greek girl returns to her roots

“If it’s going to open, it might as well be open with a full menu,” she said.

Ms Sfrantzis said OVTA represented more than 50 varied Greek traders and there were mixed results on how businesses were fairing with the restrictions.

She said some traders were still struggling with rent, some landlords had not replied to requests for reduced rents, some landlords were insisting on full rent payment and some landlords had reduced rent by 50 per cent.

Ms Sfrantzis said she encouraged the small eateries to be optimistic and continue with offering takeaway.

“At least it’s something, it’s a start,” she said.

There are more than 21 eateries in the Oakleigh street shopping strips. Katialo Greek Restaurant, Vanilla and Niko’s Quality Cakes, all in the Eaton Mall Hellenic precinct, are among the restaurants that have large enough floor spaces to meet the reopening trading requirements. For information about all eateries consult there websites.

Neos Kosmos had reported on the problems which Oakleigh businesses and landlords alike were experiencing in late March following the state government’s crippling trade restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.

READ MORE: What support will local Oakleigh businesses need on the way to recovery?

Strict rules as cafes, restaurants reopen

Victorian cafes, restaurants, pubs and hospitality venues can begin planning a phased reopening from next Monday 1 June with strict hygiene practices and  rules on the number of patrons allowed.

On 17 May, the Victorian Premier, Mr Daniel Andrews, announced the following phased reopening:

  • From June 1, cafes, restaurants and pubs are able to reopen to serve meals to up to 20 customers at a time per enclosed space;
  • From June 22,that number could increase to upto 50 patrons; and
  • By the second half of July, it could be increased to upto  100.

Premier Andrews then said before each date health officials would review the rates of community transmission in Victoria before taking  the steps outlined.

“We need to be really clear though: this is not a done deal. These timelines will depend on how we’re  tracking,” Mr Andrews said on 17 May.

“If, in the coming weeks, we see a sudden upswing in community exposure from an unknown source – we may have to make the call to delay.”

Breaches and overcrowding would also cause delays, he said.

Mr Andrews said venues had to abide by the following rules:

  • Physical distancing requirements of one person per 4sq m;
  • Tables 1.5m apart;
  • Venues required to take contact details of every customer to help with rapid contact tracing;
  • Other safety requirements,like extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks; and
  • The government, industry and unions would look at how to manage shared areas like entrances and bathrooms.

These requirements were in addition to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  special requirements for every business in Victoria  that has customers on its  premises.

These are the following:

  • Physical distancing of 1.5m between people;
  • Signs at entrances indicating the maximum number of people allowed and ensuring it’s not exceeded;
  • Cleaning regime that ensures frequently- touched surfaces, like doors, benchtops and  touch screens are cleaned at least twice a day with disinfectant;
  • Soiled surfaces and spillages cleaned with disinfectant regardless;and
  • The cleaning regime must include disinfectant with anti-virus  properties that comply with DHHS rules.

For further information go to www.premier.vic.gov.au and www.dhhs.vic.gov.au.