Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has toasted the state moving to “Third Step” restrictions with a glass of Starward Whisky.
Andrews announced last night that Victorian restaurants, pubs and cafes will finally be allowed to reopen from 11.59pm today.
He was asked by a reporter after the announcement if it meant Victorians could now get “back on the beers”.
“I don’t know that I’ll be drinking a beer tonight,” Andrews said. “I might go a little higher up the shelf.”
When Andrews announced pubs and restaurants would close in Victoria during the first coronavirus wave, he said: “You won’t be able to go to the pub because the pub is shut. That doesn’t mean you can have all your mates around to (your) home and get on the beers, that’s not appropriate.”
The phrase “get on the beers” has since been used by Victorians as a measure of the state’s reopening level.
Last night, the Victorian Premier tweeted: “Said I’d go a little higher up the shelf. Here’s to you, Victoria.”
The tweet attracted negative comments, with Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said it was “tone deaf” for the Premier to be posting photos of donuts and whisky. Another man said: “Nothing to cheer for. Almost a thousand people are dead. Thousands of businesses went under and struggling. Millions of people are affected financially.”
But many social media users were on his side.
“Cheers to you and your incredibly hard working team. Bottoms up Victoria,” one said. “We did it!”
Starward’s global head of communications, Emma Day, told Smart Company the team was “surprised but happy” to see one of their bottles featured in Andrews’ posts on Twitter and Facebook.
“Throughout the whole Melbourne lockdown, we have felt and seen the love from Australia, from the Click for Vic campaign, to Dan Andrews’ social posts,” she said.
“We’re glad Melbourne and Melbourne’s hospitality is getting the spotlight and support.”
Starward Distillery is based in Port Melbourne. It announced last night that it will be reopening to the public from November 6.
Over the last year Starward has expanded its international presence in the US, France, and Japan. Earlier this month it announced it had also gained distribution in the UK.
Starward commercial sales director, Scott English said: “Our whiskies offer a point of difference, they are the purest example of new world innovation, something that we feel needs to be shared.”
The new rules for Victorian pubs
Pubs will be allowed have up to 50 customers outdoors and 20 indoors from 11.59pm tonight. Density limits, record keeping and COVIDSafe Plans will apply.
“As we take these steady steps towards reopening, the message remains the same: please, stay safe,” Andrews said. “And if you have symptoms, you must get tested.”
David Canny, Victorian president of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), said the plan is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t meet the “viability test”.
“The government needs to have greater trust in us and our patrons in adhering to COVID-safe operating plans,” he said in a statement.
He said an AHA model of one patron per four square metres would be a better start for Victorian pubs.
“We think up to 70% of pubs won’t open at this first stage,” Canny told 3AW.
“We’re going to try and stay positive,” he added. “We’re happier than we were yesterday, that’s for sure.”