WARRNAMBOOL Racing Club has called for the May races public holiday to be changed to a date that will have community benefit this year.
Bans on gatherings due to the coronavirus and strict bio-security protocols forced racing groups to change the racing format of the normally three-day event this year to a crowd-free, two-day event, on Tuesday May 5 and Wednesday May 6.
The public holiday, slated for Thursday, May 7, has traditionally occurred in the Warrnambool City and Moyne Shire areas in lieu of Victoria's Melbourne Cup public holiday. But this year there will be no racing on that day.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive officer Tom O'Connor said the club had contacted the city council weeks ago suggesting there was merit in changing the public holiday date.
"We got some correspondence to say it had already been gazetted. But that's not to say that it can't change," Mr O'Connor said.
"We thought it wasn't necessary to put that extra burden on the community if the May carnival wasn't going to go ahead in its full flight and format."
Crowds of 28,500 people attended last year and 76 per cent of racegoers were from outside the region.
With those crowds absent this year and no racing on the public holiday, Mr O'Connor said businesses which stayed open would at this stage be forced to pay employees public holiday rates.
"I don't think it's reasonable for them have to continue to operate on the Thursday without the influx of people," he said.
Mr O'Connor said Country Racing Victoria had made the decision not to schedule racing on the public holiday which he said wasn't intended to save on racing industry labour costs.
"Our conversation was on a state base with the racing industry ... it didn't enter their conversation because it's a local holiday," he said.
Mr O'Connor said the club would be interested in discussing with the council about whether the date could change to November's Jericho Cup.
"The one thing that is important is whether it can be used to benefit the local community here in Warrnambool," he said.
"There's some hard times ahead and I think it's important we look at some things that can activate stimulus for the community."
Warrnambool mayor Tony Herbert did not respond to questions by deadline.
Moyne Shire mayor Daniel Meade said councillors had not discussed the issue but he believed the public holiday should change if feasible.
"I would prefer to see it used for a Moyne event," Cr Meade said.
"It could be a show, it could be the Friday before the Mortlake Cup."