Operators welcome NSW capacity increase

25 May, 2020 by The Shout Team

By Vanessa Cavasinni and Andy Young

On Friday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced venues could welcome up to 50 patrons from 1 June under strict conditions, and the move has been widely welcomed by operators.

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At the previous level of a maximum 10 patrons a large number of operators chose not to re-open as the numbers would meant they were losing money. However move to 50 pax means more doors will be able to open – safely.

Stephen Hunt, MD of Hunt Hospitality, told TheShout, “We are really excited to be opening all our venues on June 1”.

He added: “We only closed for a week, then we started taking the ‘Pub to the People’ through ‘call and collect’ and home delivery as well.

“We wanted to, keep our engines running, Mother’s Day went really well, platters and Champagne for mums at home, our sales this year where nearly as big as last year in one venue.

“We will definitely be opening up for 50, we are really excited.”

Speaking on Friday after the Premier’s announcement, Justin Hemmes of Merivale, said: “Today is a day of celebration and hope for the hospitality industry. This is the best news we’ve had in months, and marks the real beginning to hospitality’s road to recovery.

“I would like to commend the government who not only acted swiftly to protect our country, but are now doing everything they can to help us safely reopen doors and rebuild the industry. Whilst we are still a while away from operating all our venues at full capacity, the increase to 50 customers is a huge leap forward and one that will result in an exponential increase in employment.

“Thank you, as always, to our incredible staff and loyal guests for their patience, support and unwavering optimism that things would get better. They finally have.”

Steven Speed Director of WDS Hotels Group, broke down some of the numbers for TheShout, to put the move in perspective.

“We’re going to open on Thursday 4 June – it’s another week closer to the next milestone of easing further restrictions,” Speed said.

“We’re going to open the Push Bar, which is the little cocktail bar on the corner, and run people through into the bistro for stage one. We’re having a façade upgrade to the Fortune of War, so we’re going to have scaffolding up in front of that for a couple of weeks from 1 June. People are hanging to get back into the Fortune, but we may be able to open that on the weekends and night when there’s no noise.

“Even though we’ve got 50 across possibly  multiple areas – once that’s defined – you still have your one person per 4sqm rule. So the Push Bar has a capacity of 100, but with that rule I can have 31 in there. The bistro normally has a capacity of 77, now I can have 20. The Fortune of War has a capacity of 73, now we can have 17 and 10 in the front and back areas respectively.

“So we’re still restricted quite significantly with the numbers we can have on the premises. Plus staffing costs for that amount of trade means we can’t possibly run seven days a week.”

He added: “People are excited to get back – our phone messages and social media are full of people asking when they can come back. So some of the decisions to re-open really are emotional decisions to re-connect with The Rocks community. But it’s going to cost us money to do this, we will lose money.

“However you’ve got to draw the line in the sand, you’ve got to get up and running because everything is turned off, and having your business asleep, once you start to turn things back on that’s when you find operational problems. So you’ve got to iron all of those out before you start ramping up.”

Ben Carroll, Director of Applejack Hospitality told TheShout that while Friday’s announcement was “great news” and “another step closer to getting this brilliant industry back on its feet,” the group will not be opening all its venues immediately.

“We have been using this downtime to complete some renovations and plot out how to trade more efficiently on the other side,” Carroll said.

“Keeping in line with our methodical approach we won’t be in a position to open the venues on June 1, we are holding off until later in the month to ensure a safer trading environment for our people and our bottom line.

“The industry as we knew it will be very different, so playing the short game of pinching pennies could potentially distract us from the our goal of rebuilding something magical that will be with us for many years to come.”

Venues in NSW will be able to open to up to 50 patrons dependent on social distancing and space rulings. See what the regulations and roadmaps for re-opening are for all the other states and territories here.