Discount dining to revive inner Melbourne

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Diners will be able to claim up to $150 in meal vouchers as part of a $44 million package to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD after the city’s sixth lockdown.

Victoria recorded 1173 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths on Sunday, as the state forges ahead with reopening and recovery.

The state government and City of Melbourne have agreed to jointly fund a number of targeted initiatives to bring the city centre back to life, including a $5 million midweek dining rebate scheme.

From November 15, diners can claim up to $150 off their food bills between Monday and Thursday each week.

More than 200,000 rebates will be up for grabs at restaurants, cafes and bars which serve food in the CBD, Carlton’s Lygon Street, North Melbourne, Southbank, South Wharf and Docklands.

Diners will be refunded 30 per cent within five business days of uploading a photograph of their bill online.

The package also includes $10.4 million to help businesses trade outdoors and at night, $15.7 million to boost the city’s events calendar, $14 million to revitalise public areas and $3.6 million for an enhanced business concierge service.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the package, the first part of a $200 million city revitalisation fund, was designed to help Melbourne recapture its vibrant food, wine and coffee culture.

“This is about getting people back to the CBD,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at Italian restaurant Becco in Melbourne’s CBD.

“It’s all about recovering what we lost.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said midweek foot traffic in the CBD remains down 50 per cent but the dining rebates would spur a rebound.

“The first time we did it, people came back three times faster than previous bounce-backs,” she said.

The city’s annual Christmas festivities will also begin from Friday, two weeks earlier than usual, to lure back more shoppers.

But opposition gaming and liquor regulation spokeswoman Steph Ryan said the discounted meals did not address “chronic” staff shortages in the industry, calling for sign-on bonuses for new workers.

“Most hospitality venues are desperate to reopen to their normal trading hours and many of them are struggling because they can’t get kitchen staff, they can’t get wait staff,” the Nationals MP said.

It comes as organisers of protests against vaccine mandates and proposed pandemic laws vowed to return to the streets of Melbourne every week until their demands are met.

A crowd marched through the CBD on Saturday to protest against a bill heading for the upper house that would give the Victorian government specific pandemic powers.

The bill needs the support of three of the 11 crossbenchers to pass, granting the premier the power to declare a pandemic and extend emergency conditions for three months at a time, for as long as considered necessary.

Mr Andrews suggested there were a “wide range of views” among Saturday’s protesters but their efforts would be for nought.

“Protesting doesn’t work,” he said.

“The bill that’s in the parliament … builds on what happens in New Zealand, builds on what happens in NSW and is absolutely consistent with the powers that various people within government have held.”

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