Omicron is still closing Melbourne restaurants at short notice – this new site shows who’s open right now

Omicron infections may have peaked in Victoria, but ongoing cases and mandatory isolation continue to hit Melbourne’s restaurants, cafes and bars – which are already severely deficient. Many venues still close unexpectedly for days due to infections among staff.

Three weeks ago, Iain Ling and Kiet Diep ate a few pints and discussed how difficult January has been. Ling driver Carlton boozer Hotel Lincoln; Diep is behind the CBD karaoke palace Yum Sing House. How, they wondered, could potential customers quickly and easily find a place to eat or drink, and be sure it would actually be open when they arrived? The answer is Open in Melb, a super-simple website that lists venues currently open in your area.

“The timing of it is pretty acute,” Ling said Broadsheet this morning. “Gerald’s Bar is closed next week I think and Embla is closed this week.”

The site is built by a friend of the digital agency Visual Moda and allows any cafe, restaurant or bar in Melbourne to create a profile and add opening hours. If the venue is to close at short notice, it can immediately set its status to closed.

Right now, there are less than 40 venues on the platform – including Little Andorra, Whiskey & Alement, Epocha, Sunda, Tipo 00 and Osteria Ilaria – which Ling has only promoted by texting friends in the industry. More venues will join as the word comes out and further improvements are made to the site, which Ling says is an ongoing work.

“The functionality of the website is important, but it’s also telling the story that the venues are making it difficult,” he says.

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