As it happened Melbourne reopens: Victorian statewide lockdown lifts as pubs, hairdressers, live music venues open doors to vaccinated patrons

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Key posts

  • ‘I’m worried’: Restaurant owner concerned about angry customers
  • ‘It’s everything’: Time to reconnect with loved ones over coffee, hugs and lunch
  • Hail hits Geelong but misses Melbourne
  • Reactions to lockdown easing
  • Drinks flow as Melburnians step out
  • ‘Terribly disrupted year’: Regional kids return to school for home stretch
  • Hair now, eat later: Barber says customers come first on reopening day
  • Reactions to lockdown easing
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That’s all we have for tonight

That’s all we have for this special Melbourne reopening blog.

Thanks for joining us for this joyous occasion, we’ve had editors, journalists, photographers and producers working all hours to follow the events since midnight and we are grateful for all the interest our readers have shown in the stories that we have followed.

Here are a few of the main stories from today:

Melbourne erupts in cheers at midnight as lockdown finally lifts

Andrews flags more freedoms as state races to 80% milestone

‘Terribly disrupted year’: Regional kids return to school for home stretch

‘Like New Year’s Eve, without the fireworks’: Melbourne wakes – and the night belongs to the young

Once again I thank you for all the comments and interactions today. Please stay with us this weekend for more reopening and COVID-19 stories.

Bye for now.

‘I’m worried’: Restaurant owner concerned about angry customers

Most Melbourne hospitality operators breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck midnight on Thursday night putting an end to months of no trading.

But some business owners are confused about the current rules and worry about becoming the victims of unvaccinated patrons’ wrath when they are refused entry to a venue.

Atcharapan Jongwattanasiri, owner of a Thai restaurant in Yarraville.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Atcharapan Jongwattanasiri, the owner of At 43 Thai Restaurant on Yarraville’s Anderson Street, said it wasn’t clear what venues were supposed to do if vaccinated diners tested positive for COVID-19.

“Who do I contact?” she said.

Ms Jongwattanasiri, who opened the restaurant shortly before the pandemic, said she hadn’t had trouble with unvaccinated patrons refusing to abide by the rules during Melbourne’s first day of freedom, but some of her business owner friends had experienced issues with angry customers.

“I am worried if the people have the first dose and they wait for the second dose and they want to come in, how do I do it? I want to make the customer happy,” she said.

Ms Jongwattanasiri said she understood the need to make venues safer by requiring proof of vaccination but putting the onus on owners was stressful.

She worried the government would walk back on its promise to put a stop to lockdowns.

“If next week the cases pop up to 4000, what is the government going to do? Lockdown again or they are going to keep going? I’m worried.”

‘It’s everything’: Time to reconnect with loved ones over coffee, hugs and lunch

“Four birthdays!” When friends Kate Ritchie and Hana Assafiri reunited after missing each other madly during Melbourne’s latest lockdown, they counted the cost in celebrations they had missed.

The pair marks every significant milestone with brunch at Spring Street institution, The European. Before Ms Assafiri arrived on Friday, Ms Ritchie said she was most looking forward to “a long, long, squeezy hug”.

Kate Ritchie and Hana Assafiri reunite at The European.Credit:Justin McManus

The friends met by chance 20 years ago when Ms Ritchie dined in Ms Assafiri’s restaurant, Moroccan Soup Bar.

“We just hit it off and we chatted for hours, and we haven’t stopped chatting since,” Ms Ritchie says.

Click here to read the story.

Hail hits Geelong but misses Melbourne

As Melburnians celebrated the end of lockdown, residents in Geelong were hit with hail on Friday night.

Thunderstorms developing in central parts of the state brought hailstones exceeding one centimetre to the coastal city but did not reach severe status.

A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said the front was moving quickly in a south-easterly direction and had missed Melbourne.

There were no reports of damage to properties from Victoria’s State Emergency Service.

Reactions to lockdown easing

We asked readers earlier what you were most looking forward to now Melbourne has begun to reopen and here are some of your replies.

A group of friends reunited in Ballarat Street, Yarraville for a drink and to celebrate the end of Credit:Paul Jeffers

Mainly just stretching out at home like a happy starfish, content to know I have more options but not chasing them. It will take a while to feel zen near people again, after weeks of avoidance. – Rebecca

Camping in regional Victoria. One of the most COVID Safe things you can do! – Christian Mitchell

Socialising with friends and catching up with family. – Fanny Hoffman

Nothing, too scared of getting COVID, so staying home. – Big Joe

What’s with everyone acting as though lockdown has ended? I’m honestly a bit sad that so many Melburnians seem to have developed Stockholm Syndrome! Restrictions may have eased somewhat, but we’re still very much locked down. – Martha

Drinks flow as Melburnians step out

Melburnians let their hair down for the first Friday night drinks in months flocking to afrescos and watering holes across the city.

In Yarraville’s Ballarat Street, which remained a ghost town for most of lockdown, dozens of pubgoers spilled onto parklets with beer and cocktails in hand, the smiles glued to their faces.

Jody Brodribb and Joanne Taylor celebrate the easing of restrictions in Yarraville on Friday afternoon.Credit:Paul Jeffers

The rain held off as groups cheered and drank along the strip, some having picnics on the grass.

Jody Brodribb and Joanne Taylor had planned to meet up in their active wear and get takeaway at their local joint two weeks ago, but the pair decided to ditch their leggings for a couple of gin and tonics after news of Melbourne’s exit from lockdown were made public.

“The reopening of the world it feels like,” Ms Brodribb said.

“I’ve put on makeup for the first time in three months.”

The pair said they planned to pub crawl in Yarraville until the rain came. Then, it was drinks, cheese and biscuits at Ms Brodribb’s.

Lucio and Julie Ughetti decided to dodge the crowds at the local pub and planned a picnic with friends on the street instead.

The couple set up their picnic table with plastic plates and candles in anticipation of a meal of chicken, salad, dips, and chocolate-dipped oranges.

Ms Ughetti, who has lived in Yarraville for almost 50 years, said it was “better than New Year’s Eve”.

In a nearby alfresco area, accountant Joanne Elly went for round two with friends after celebrating the end of lockdown with a couple of drinks at home at midnight on Thursday.

The excitement was palpable as the group shared their first jug of beer for the first time in months.

“The plan is to have a couple of drinks, maybe something to eat, and go to bed not too late at night hopefully,” Ms Elly said.

‘Terribly disrupted year’: Regional kids return to school for home stretch

Year 6 students Mikayla, Charlotte and Jazmine are discussing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jazmine, who has just turned 12, has her first shot booked in three days time and is “freaking out because I hate needles”. She has heard the injection leaves people with a sore arm.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar grade six students Jazmine, Mikayla and Charotte return to school after lockdown six ended overnight.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Charlotte, also 12, is due for her second dose on the weekend. She’s looking forward to being fully vaccinated.

“The first shot didn’t hurt my arm, so I’ll tell you if the second one does,” she says.

Click here to read the story.

Hair now, eat later: Barber says customers come first on reopening day

Yarraville barber Henry Minassain was so busy trimming the overgrown locks of his loyal customers on Freedom Day he missed lunch.

He didn’t get a chance to have a coffee either, as a steady stream of customers flowed into the Ballarat Street shop from 6am.

Yarraville Barber Henry Minassian cutting Tim Su’s hair on the first day out of lockdown.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Mr Minassain said he had done more than 30 haircuts since rolling up the shutters in the morning, and estimated he would be going home closer to 8pm.

He plans to work seven days a week for the next three weeks just to deal with the demand.

“It’s good to be wanted again,” he said.

Mr Minassain, who has been in business in Yarraville for about two decades, said the latest shutoff had been tough and forced him to ask his landlord for a reprieve.

But he remained hopeful it may be the last.

Getting a haircut before hitting Melbourne for a meal with friends, Yarraville project manager Tim Su joked he looked like an unkempt Beatle.

Mr Su said it was the first time he had cut his hair since his wedding day in May after missing the cutoff date before the latest lockdown.

He planned to hit Hansang in West Melbourne for a Korean feast with mates, even if it meant lining up for hours.

“We’ll just wait in line until we can, we have no back-up plan,” he said.

Opinion: Safer roads for cyclists, pedestrians would get us back on public transport

Lockdown is ending, and Melburnians are emerging, blinking like pit ponies. Our newest challenge is to balance the desire to recapture our lost lives with the apprehension of catching COVID-19, or infecting others.

One change people are making, not just in Melbourne but around the world, is to avoid public transport and instead drive. This makes sense for individual people making specific trips in a world with COVID-19. But at scale, it’s a recipe for gridlock.

Traffic congestion on the Western Ring Road in Melbourne.Credit:Paul Rovere

Nor is COVID-19 the only force pushing people towards driving: it is becoming cheaper as people switch to electric or fuel-efficient cars. And the Andrews government’s investment in new roads dwarfs its investment in non-driving transport options.

Now is the perfect time to pause and consider how to ensure we don’t emerge from this pandemic more car-dependent than we went in.

Click here to read the story.

Reactions to lockdown easing

We asked readers earlier today what they were looking forward to doing now that lockdown has begun to ease, here are some of the reactions.

You can still send us your reactions in the box below.

Going out to dinner, lunch, cafe, bar, pub….. whatever. Just living again. – Rohan

Can not wait for Christmas to come around again, to catch up with friends and especially New Year’s Eve to bring 2021 to a close after nearly 20 tough months of COVID fight. I’m hoping COVID will be under control by end of year. – Chee Teng

I just want time with my family, it has been so hard not to see my kids and siblings. – Carol

Lockdown isn’t really over when so many people can’t go back to work yet, you can’t go to the gym, can’t go to the shops, can’t drive an hour and a half to see your dad. – Lauren

Staying home and avoiding COVID. – Ted

Going down to a favourite family holiday destination and enjoying eating out and relaxing away from the same home walls. – Warwick

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