Forget ‘freedom day’, Melbourne just took its first step towards getting back to normal day

Hollywood hero John Rambo famously claimed ‘to survive war, you gotta become war’.

How does one become isolation? 

Melburnians will all have different answers to how they survived the longest lockdown in the world – a war within themselves.  

For now, the isolation is over. 

But not for all. Friday wasn’t so much ‘freedom day’, but ‘a small step to getting back to normal’ day.    

People enjoy a sit down coffee at a cafe on Lygon Street in Carlton on Friday after enduring the longest lockdown on earth

Melburnians flocked to barbers and hairdressers as soon as they could on Friday, with waits of up to four hours at some city barber shops

Dine-in was back on Lygon Street in Carlton after 77 days of take-away in its latest lockdown

Melbourne’s CBD returns to what has become its ‘Covid normal’ status over the past 18 months 

As the sun rose in spectacular fashion, many young Melburnians would have been sleeping off a well earned hangover. 

Victoria officially lifted its stay-at-home orders at 11:59pm on Thursday after the beleaguered state passed its 70 per cent Covid vaccination target. 

Pubs and clubs that had been forced shut for the past 77 days finally swung open their doors. 

Strict density limits at licensed venues saw lines of people snake down the road. 

But they were together, talking to friends and strangers alike. 

It is something Melbourne had been known for in the decades before Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews shut the door on it and sucked the life out of it like a thief in the night. 

On Friday morning long suffering cafe owners smiled as they set up tables and chairs on the rocky alley along Hardware Lane. 

Friday had begun much like any other day in lockdown. 

It was quiet. 

To someone who hadn’t been to town since the pandemic began, they might think it all looked a bit creepy. 

This is new Melbourne. Old Melbourne is dead.  

K-mart on Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD was one of only a few retailers to open-up on the street 

Shoppers grab a bargain off the outdoor racks at a K-mart on Bourke Street on Friday

Thor the cat went for a walk on the Bourke Street Mall on Friday 

Salon owner Joey Scandizzo of Joey Scandizzo Salon works on a client’s hair in Melbourne on Friday

Across the suburbs, mop-topped people could be seen lining up in the streets outside barbers and hairdressers. 

On Hardware Lane, dishevelled men waited anywhere up to four hours to have their locks lopped. 

And wait they did. 

Sat outside across the lane from a cafe that happily served them coffees while others enjoyed a civilised breakfast. 

Around the corner, up the Bourke Street Mall, the signs of Melbourne’s wretched predicament slaps city dwellers in the face. 

It’s still very much locked up. 

Despite people being able to sit maskless in a cafe and pub or wait about to have a haircut, Melburnians cannot walk into Myer and buy a pair of jocks. 

The mall remains locked in Covid hell. 

Retail remains closed across the city. 

Melbourne Central, QV, the city hat shop, they’re all stuck in online limbo. 

Bourke Street Mall on Friday where all of the shops remained firmly closed despite the supposed ‘Freedom Day’ 

Beautician Ruby Williams (top) works on Brittney Pearson’s eye lashes at Skin Essentials Beautician in Elwood on Friday. While they can open, retail outlets cannot 

Barista Maelys is seen at work at Cafe Chez Mademoiselle in Prahran on Friday

Towards Spring Street, a K-mart has opened up out on the footpath to sell $5 garments to city shoppers. 

While retailers have been told they can open up outdoors, few appeared to have bothered in Melbourne on Friday. 

Further along the road Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar is back serving customers coffees and big bowls of pasta – and it’s only 10.30am. 

The cafe was already a Melbourne institution when owner Sisto Malaspina was killed by a terrorist on Bourke Street just outside there almost three years ago to the day.  

On Friday, a woman dressed in a black lace dress placed a bouquet of flowers attached to a love heart next to a plaque bearing Sisto’s name. 

Barista Nic Di Sipio, who has worked at Pellegrini’s for 22 years, greeted customers like old friends, giving away coffees for free despite enduring months of hardship. 

Around the corner mates Jeff and Jake sucked down thin cans of Peroni from outside an Italian restaurant. 

‘We couldn’t get a beer anywhere else,’ they told Daily Mail Australia. 

It was only 11.30am, but even then, it’s hard to get a beer in Melbourne. 

A bartender makes drinks at 3 Monkeys on Chapel Street in Prahran on Friday morning 

Melburnians flocked to pubs and clubs after midnight upon the curfew being lifted 

Prahran was heaving with happy drinkers early on Friday morning 

Melburnians can finally congregate for a drink together in small numbers 

Pubs have been booked out for weeks, with those fortunate enough to get a table restricted to six people and two hour limits before they’re booted back onto the street. 

By lunchtime city dwellers tuck into plates of food on ceramic plates, using metal forks and knives and drinking wine from actual wine glasses. 

It is a legitimate treat for those fortunate, or brave enough, to venture back out of their homes after spending so much time in isolation. 

Pubs in Fitzroy filled up with desperate drinkers. 

In Carlton – the Little Italy of Melbourne – Lygon Street was bustling with activity as people returned to the popular eating strip. 

“It’s good to be back serving customers again,’ cafe workers told Daily Mail Australia. 

On Friday, Mr Andrews infuriated Melburnians with an insipid tweet praising Victorians for their efforts to get out of lockdown. 

“I’m trying not to sound like some kind of soppy dad, but I am proud, bloody proud of this state,’ he tweeted. 

The Rainbow in Fitzroy was back serving beers on Friday after months of lockdown 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has already started mingling with babies a day out of lockdown and on the road to the next election

Melbourne men were happy to finally get a hair cut after months in lockdown

On the streets, his comments inspired responses too crass for publication. 

While Melburnians can now freely move across the metropolitan region, they are unable to cross into regional Victoria despite interstate travellers being able to do just that. 

‘I just wanna see my parents again,’ one man told Daily Mail Australia. ‘There is a lot of suffering out there thanks to these demented c**ts.’

A snap poll by Daily Mail Australia readers on Thursday found 81 per cent of them (329) didn’t think this would be Melbourne’s last lockdown, despite the premier’s assurances it would be. 

Victoria’s reopening comes as the state recorded 2189 new cases overseas and 16 deaths in the 24 hours to Friday.

While Mr Andrews on Friday embarked on a positive media frenzy, allowing photographers to picture him embracing a baby, true freedom will not come for Victorians for weeks to come. 

Even at 80 per cent vaccination rate, density restrictions and mask wearing will continue. 

And the silent war rages on. 

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