By Graeme Kemlo

Melbourne has poured cold water on this year’s New Year’s fireworks celebration, instead opting for a COVID-safe 48-hour celebration of its food and wine culture.

While some might suggest the nanny state has gone too far having locked residents down for four months – then pulled the pyrotechnics that usually draw 400,000 visitors up and down the Yarra bank – City Hall’s spin suggests it will feel like a European piazza.

Okay, so we understand Melbourne likes to portray itself as Australia’s most European city with Victorian architecture, wide streets, leafy parks and hook turns. But the NYE big bang is surely a Melbourne tradition, like pies and footy. And hotels, especially those on the riverfront, sell out NYE rooms with a view well in advance, so will there be disappointed guests wanting refunds?

Melbourne already has a food and wine festival in March, but this two-day event will happen from New Year’s Eve Thursday through Friday across 11 city precincts including Flinders Lane, Little Bourke Street, AC/DC Lane, Hardware Lane, even the pollie’s heartland of Spring Street. But to avoid crowd congestion, diners must pre-book.

Citing other international cities – London, Rio De Janeiro, Prague and Dublin  – that have scaled back fireworks celebrations this year, the official reason for the decision is: “…[It] would put both members of the public and police and emergency services members at risk during a pandemic.”

Sounds like 2020 will just fizzle out.