The Northern Territory is continuing to ease its tough COVID-19 restrictions – allowing pubs, gyms, cafes and nail salons to reopen with extra hygiene measures and two-hour time limits in place.
Darwin proprietor Jason Hanna owns several eateries across the Top End, including The Deck Bar, Chow, Lazy Susan’s and Good Times Bar & Grill.
On Friday, Mr Hanna got up at 3am to get some of his restaurants ready to reopen at midday. He expected Territorians to come out en masse to support local businesses and quench their thirst.
“I think I might not have ordered enough beer [although] we’ve got buckets of corona on special all day, just to dig it in,” he said.
“We’ve got our poor brethren down in places like NSW that are allowed to have 10 people in a venue, here we can have 10 people on one table.
“We are pretty blessed up here, the weather’s 26 degrees, nice and cool, the beers flowing and the kitchens ready to go.”
Territorians ‘deserved’ today’s drink
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was excited about the 3000 people who were back at work on Friday.
Industry peak body Hospitality NT said about 450 food and drink venues reopened across the Territory, with more expected to open on June 5 in the third stage of restrictions easing.
Mr Gunner thanked Territorians for listening to health advice and making the NT the “safest place in Australia”.
“It’s been 53 days and I think you’ve all deserved that beer,” he said.
Shenannigans, one of the bars on Darwin’s popular drinking mile Mitchell Street, was booked out by opening time at midday.
Sydneysider Charlotte Dubois was among the first to the bar.
She said she’d been in Darwin six weeks and due to coronavirus, this was her first chance at a pint in the Top End town.
“I can’t wait to shove it in my Sydney friends’ faces,” she said.
‘There’s enough beer here’
Carlton and United Breweries’ NT sales manager Lincoln Jenkins said about 175,000 litres of beer had been delivered to the Northern Territory in the past week.
He assured Territorians there would definitely be enough tap beer to last the weekend.
“There will be plenty out there, we won’t be running out,” he said.
“There’s enough beer here for what we think is the next two to three weeks.”
Mr Jenkins said the NT was the “envy of the rest of the country” on Friday as pubs reopened and thousands of hospitality workers returned to work.
‘Don’t drink and drive’
NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said it was an “exciting day” for the Territory, but he also warned drivers to be safe on the roads.
Commissioner Chalker said there would be a strong police presence in busy centres and parks – and motorists could expect random breath tests.
“We really don’t want to see a spike in the road toll, and we certainly don’t want to see a spike in poor road behaviour,” he said.
“Just hit it with a little bit of common sense and appreciate the very rare circumstances we’ve been able to create in our own ‘big bubble’ and appreciate it and enjoy it but not risk it.”