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Retailers watch on as Melb lockdown lifts

Melbourne’s lockdown has lifted but many retail businesses have been forced to watch on as their stores remain closed.

Under the latest rules, which came into effect on Friday, hairdressers, beauticians and hospitality businesses in Melbourne can reopen indoors and home gatherings of up to 10 are allowed.

But non-essential retailers can only open for outdoor trade until 80 per cent of all Victorians aged over 16 are vaccinated against COVID-19, which is currently forecast to occur about October 30.

Gyms also remain shut until the milestone is reached.

Maria Frappa, who owns womenswear boutique Ashk in Brunswick East, said she won’t reopen until she can have customers in her store.

“I do not do online, I offer an experience to my clients, it’s personal styling, helping them choose something, which I cannot do on a footpath,” she told reporters at an opposition press conference on Friday.

“How I’m supposed to put my silk blouses on a footpath and women can try on clothes in front of other people on the street?”

Ms Frappa said despite spending much of the past 18 months closed, new stock continues to arrive that needs to be paid for.

“It is quite distressing to me as a businesses owner and to look out across the road and see three cafes and a nail salon having people unmasked, sitting down, eating, talking, and I have to be out on the street to sell clothes?” she said.

Opposition spokesman for COVID-19 recovery Tim Smith said the current restrictions were unfair given Sydney retailers were able to reopen when NSW reached 70 per cent double-dosed.

“I am delighted that I could sit down for coffee at my favourite coffee shop inside this morning, that’s great news. But what about the retailers? What about the gym owners?” he said.

“What about everyday Victorians who just want to go to the gym, who want to go shopping? It’s not fair. It’s wrong.”

Some retailers, however, are embracing outdoor trade.

CBD clothing store Swensk has curated racks of clothing for their customers to browse out the front of the shop, complete with a comfy couch and drinks with owner Jane Matthews.

“The concept was, send us your wish list, we’ll prepare that curated rack for you in the right sizes,” she told AAP.

“Creativity is definitely the way around this for retail.”

Ms Matthews said she was disappointed her small store had been bundled in with larger retail chains under the latest restrictions.

“If we were allowed, based on density, I could open up to a small number of people, I could control my cleaning, QR codings etc,” she said.

“Rather than a blanket open of all retail, if it’s gradual or by density it’s a much more measured and controlled solution to reopening.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government would clarify “quite soon” what restrictions will ease when the state reaches its 80 per cent vaccination target.

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