NSW reversal on pub dining restrictions

14 May, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

In a lightning quick reversal of its position on pub dining in the first stage of easing of restrictions, the New South Wales Government has confirmed that pubs will be allowed to host 10 dining patrons at any one time from Friday 15 May.

The Premier’s office confirmed to Australian Hotelier that pubs, alongside cafes and restaurants, will be allowed to host a maximum of 10 patrons at any one time from tomorrow. On-premise patronage will be restricted to table-service dining only. Alcohol will be allowed to consumed with food, but bar service (beverages only) is excluded from the easing of restrictions, as is gaming. Social distancing measures of 1.5m and one person per 4sqm will still be in place.

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The reversal in position came about 12 hours after Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated on Sunrise that pubs had been excluded from on-premise dining at this stage, under the rationale that people are more likely to linger in a pub setting.

The news was met with severe backlash from publicans, who questioned the logic of allowing small cafes to serve ten patrons, when a more spacious pub setting would cope better with social distancing measures.

John Green, director of liquor and policing at AHA NSW, said that members were frustrated with the news and that it made no sense. He posed the question: “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.”

By Wednesday evening, it seems the Government had heard the complaints and queries of the industry and reversed its position, allowing pubs to offer table-service dining to 10 patrons as well.

While welcome news, pub operators will now decide whether it’s a viable option for their individual venues.

Craig Laundy of Laundy Hotels said that their venues would remain shut for now.

“If the Government were to go to the one per 4sqm rule, which is what we were on pre- March 23 closure, that is probably where we would need to be for our venues to re-open.”