It’s time to wine and dine in NSW, with up to 50 people to be allowed in restaurants, pubs and cafes as the state eases more COVID-19 restrictions.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday announced the “big and critical” step from June 1, but said strict rules would be in place for venues.
“The last thing we want to do is shut businesses down because they haven’t complied,” she told reporters in Sydney.
Venues will still have to allow at least four square metres of space per person.
Additionally, bookings of more than 10 will be banned, and patrons won’t be allowed to stand.
Currently, dining venues can only have a maximum of 10 patrons if they maintain social distancing. That includes alcohol table service with meals at NSW pubs and clubs.
Jake Smyth, co-owner of 10 venues including the Lansdowne Hotel, the Unicorn Hotel and Mary’s Newtown, said he was “absolutely thrilled” his venues could welcome more than 10 people.
“But to be honest I was thrilled last week when I walked through my venues and I welcomed the first 10 diners … I had tears in my eyes and thanked them for coming and supporting us,” Mr Smyth told AAP on Friday.
Even with just 10 patrons, trade in the four open venues has been incredibly bolstered and in two venues has doubled, he said.
The changes coming into play next month will be “beneficial to every venue that’s not already maxed out with 10,” Mr Smyth said.
Prior to the pandemic, some 240 staff were employed across the 10 venues but just 40 staff are currently working.
However, it’s hoped another two venues will re-open in early June and up to another 50 staff can be brought back before July.
While praising the NSW government for its’ handling of the situation so far, Mr Smyth said he would like to see social distancing of one person per two square metres for outdoor areas and greater flexibility on the number of people allowed at a venue.
He questioned how viable it would be for leagues clubs or very large venues, such as Merivale’s Newport Hotel, to re-open with 50 people.
“If they can safely say that 50 people can come to Mary’s Newtown, then they should say that one per four square meters, as long as everyone has a table, should be applied across larger venues, maybe with a cap of a few hundred,” Mr Smyth said.
“An arbitrary number like 50, as the maximum, is just very confusing … what happens if the pub is as big as a football field?”
ClubsNSW on Friday confirmed the state’s clubs will re-open on June 1.
“This is a wonderful day for the state’s 1200 clubs, their 41,000 employees and the 3.5 million club members across NSW,” chief executive Josh Landis said in a statement.
“It’s also welcome news for the thousands of community groups, sporting teams and charities who rely on clubs for funding.”
The increase in patronage aligns with the easing of regional travel restrictions across the state and the opening of museums, galleries and libraries from June 1.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the decision to allow 50 patrons for seated dining from June 1 will allow thousands more people to return to work.
In a statement, Australian Hotels Association NSW chief executive John Whelan said 94 per cent of the hotels’ workforce had been stood down or sacked – but from June 1 the industry could start re-employing staff.
The Tourism and Transport Forum said Friday’s announcement sends a message that the state was once again open for business.
NSW earlier on Friday reported its 50th COVID-19 death after an 80-year-old woman died in Concord Hospital. Her death brings the national toll to 101.
NSW on Friday had three new coronavirus cases from more than 8600 tests.