NSW coronavirus social-distancing restrictions for restaurants will soon be the most relaxed in the country — bar the Northern Territory.
- NSW restrictions are set to ease from June 1, allowing restaurants to increase capacity
- One restaurateur said pre-paid bookings put people’s health and safety at risk
- A union boss said hospitality had a reputation for treating workers “appallingly”
But things will look very different inside pubs and eateries when hospitality venues in Australia’s worst-affected coronavirus state are allowed to open their doors to up to 50 people from June 1.
Venues have been warned that people must stay 4-square metres from each other, and cannot stand, mingle or dance.
There will also be no buffets or shared cutlery and bookings will be limited to 10 people.
Diners will have to register their name and phone number when they enter the so they can be contacted in the event of an outbreak.
The latest round of easing restrictions will come as a relief to many restaurateurs who have struggled to operate amid the 10-person limit.
Aref Jaroud, the restaurateur behind a Facebook post which slammed a diner for cancelling without notice, said the industry was in a “world of pain”.
Mr Jaroud owns and operates Low 302 in Sydney’s Surry Hills, and said when the mystery four-person booking, under the name Aimee, didn’t show up, he vented.
The post, told mystery diner Aimee there was “a special place in hell” for her for costing the restaurant 40 per cent of its capacity last Saturday evening.
But now, Mr Jaroud realises “there could be many reasons why someone is a no-show”.
The viral post said Low 302 was now requiring deposits upon booking confirmations, but Mr Jaroud said he had changed his mind.
As more patrons fill restaurants, bars and cafes from June 1, Mr Jaroud says “there is a health and safety concern that I think takes precedence”.
“I would worry that if someone for instance got the sniffles, they may decide to still go out so as not to lose their deposit.
“I’m not putting a booking fee above the possibility of that scenario.”
He said he understands the frustration of the hospitality industry, but he said charging a booking fee was not the answer.
“I’m one of them, but just now, more than ever, we need to place health and safety first,” he said.
“We may need to take a few no shows on the chin, and try to be patient.”
Mr Jaroud said he was contacted by dozens of restaurant owners, sharing their own tales of no-show bookings.
“I cannot believe every one of them was due to an emergency, or a situation where someone in the group couldn’t have picked up the phone, or emailed in a cancellation,” he said.
Mel Gatfield from United Workers Union NSW said regulations should urgently be put in place to protect workers and customers from coronavirus as the 50-person limit rolls out.
“COVID-19 has devastated the hospitality workforce,” she said.
“Now, as restrictions are loosened this workforce is apprehensive, members are very concerned about returning to work in confined spaces.”
Mr Gatfield said the hospitality industry as a whole had an “appalling track record when it came to looking after workers”.
“Hospitality workers must be able to go back to work in hospitality venues from 1 June knowing that strict measures are in place to ensure everyone’s safety,” she said.