‘Booked out’: Mad rush for first beer
NSW residents can finally head out to their favourite pubs, restaurants and cafes as tough coronavirus restrictions ease.
From today, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to have up to 10 patrons while maintaining social distancing of 1.5 metres between people and four square metres per person.
Pubs and clubs will also be allowed to have up to 10 patrons for food service while maintaining social distancing, although only table service for alcohol with a meal will be permitted.
And as you'd expect, parched Sydneysiders have rushed to book a spot at some of the capital's most popular venues, with many already booked out as patrons scramble to be among the first to enjoy a cold one outside their homes for the first time in months.
Paul Waterson, the CEO of Australia's second largest pubs group Australian Venue Co, told news.com.au reservations began flooding in "the moment there was an announcement" that pubs and clubs would be able to reopen.
Sydney venues Cargo, Bungalow8, Beer Deluxe and Manly Wine are all opening today, with trendy The Winery in Surry Hills to follow next week.
"The phones have been running hot … we'll be full to the 10-person capacity well and truly," he said.
"We're trying to keep a bit of space for walk-ins too because a lot of people want to be one of the first in Australia to come and have a beer."
Mr Waterson said patrons had been eagerly anticipating the reopening of venues from the moment restrictions were first put in place.
"There has been a lot of engagement from our patrons all the way through - it's been incredible, whether through social media or direct emails, and we've had a number of patrons who have pushed out their bookings multiple times as restrictions changed month by month because they didn't want to cancel," he said.
"Clearly you can't run a profitable venue with 10 patrons - many of our venues have a capacity of 1500 or more - but we looked at the various costs and we were lucky enough to have the JobKeeper subsidy helping pay a lot of our staff hours and we've also had supportive landlords as well.
"While we certainly won't be making any money, and will probably lose a bit more than if we kept closed, it's great for staff to spend time with patrons and get back to work again."
Mr Waterson said he believed it would take some time before all patrons had the confidence to return to venues as normal and that his company wanted to reopen as soon as possible to begin that process.
"We're making sure our patrons coming in are having a safe experience and it takes time for everyone to have the confidence to come out again," he said.
"We've set up hand sanitisation stations, staff are temperate checked before they start every shift, we've got an online ordering tool where you can hover your phone camera over a QR code to order food and beverages directly on your phone, we've quadrupled our cleaning and removed all communal things you usually see in pubs like caddies for cutlery and condiments.
"We've been missing our patrons so we really look forward to welcoming them back and seeing them soon."
He encouraged customers to book their seats in advance given the surge in demand and the 10-person rule.
"It's a step in the right direction. We're hoping to see a further easing of restrictions in coming weeks so that we can welcome back larger groups of people for a safe, memorable dining experience," he said.
It's a similar situation for the ever-popular 4 Pines Brewing Company, with most of its Sydney venues already booked out for today.
Meanwhile, Sydney residents have flocked to social media to celebrate the easing of restrictions, with many commenting on their favourite venues' social media pages vowing to visit soon.
And it's not just pubgoers keen to get out and about today, with Macleay Street Bistro owner Phillip Fikkers telling Good Food the restaurant was "booked out within an hour" after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today's reopening on Sunday.
"My inbox has been flooded with customers requesting a table for our first service back on Friday night," he told the publication.
Originally published as 'Booked out': Mad rush for first beer