NSW Premier clarifies: No pub dining until Stage Three

13 May, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

Update: The Premier’s office has since confirmed that pubs are now included in the 10-patron dining rule. See the full story here. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian clarified this morning that pubs would not be included in this Friday’s easing of restrictions that will allow cafes and restaurants to host up to 10 patrons at any one time.

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Speaking on Channel 7’s Sunrise program this morning, the Premier stated that pubs and clubs have been excluded from Stage One of re-opening that will allow other hospitality venues to host 10 patrons on their premises for dining, noting the frustration this would cause for pub operators.

“I appreciate the frustration expressed by the pubs and clubs, and in fact, in NSW our treasurer and our deputy premier and key ministers are meeting with industry to work out a plan for NSW.”

“When our medical experts are asked why restaurants and cafes open and not pubs their response is that it’s easier to maintain social distancing in a seated restaurant or cafe situation, whereas in a pub if people are mingling and what have you it’s a bit more difficult.”

This has left many operators across New South Wales incredibly frustrated. While many had decided that operating for 10 patrons was not viable, smaller venues, particularly in regional areas, were gearing up to re-open dining in a couple of days.

John Green, director of liquor and policing for AHA NSW, said that the directive made very little sense in terms of social distancing.

“We’re pleased that the Premier at least acknowledged the difficulty hotels are faced with in not being included in the re-opening to 10 patrons.

“Our issue is, why is it that you can have 10 people crammed into a café for breakfast, but those same 10 people can’t go to a fairly spacious hotel for lunch? It makes no sense. There also seems to be an attitude that all people do in pubs and clubs is stand around. Pubs have restaurants, bistros and table service.”

The news is particularly unwelcome for regional pubs, which are generally small enough to operate for 10 patrons, and which in many cases offer one of very few dining options for locals.  AHA NSW is advocating for pubs in regional areas that have seen no cases of COVID-19 to be allowed to re-open their dining offering with social distancing. This is now the case in outback Queensland, where venues will be allowed to host 20 patrons from Saturday 16 May.

Venue operators are also frustrated with the lack of notice, with the clarification being given just two days before restrictions are set to ease. Green noted that while changes have been made rapidly since the coronavirus crisis first began, operators will need more notice around re-opening in Stage Three.

“As we get towards Stage Three when venues will be reopening, we’ll be asking for good lead-in time, because we need to order beer, we need to ensure our food suppliers are starting to increase orders. So it’s important that the dialogue continues in a timely fashion.”