The Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) has criticised the state government’s move to ease coronavirus restrictions for pubs and eateries, saying the 10-person limit on patrons “lacks practically” and it is not financially viable for many businesses to reopen.
From next Saturday, restaurants, pubs and clubs will be permitted to have up to 10 patrons at a time, under a three-month road map to easing COVID-19 restrictions in Queensland.
It is one of several restrictions set to be relaxed across the state.
While many Queenslanders are rejoicing at the news, restaurateurs have criticised the move.
QHA chief executive Bernie Hogan said most pubs would not bother opening to patrons and would continue to serve takeaway.
“It absolutely lacks practically — there’s no way a pub can really support itself with 10 people,” Mr Hogan said on ABC Radio Brisbane.
“I think realistically, most pubs in South East Queensland will just simply not open.”
Mr Hogan said it was not financially viable for pubs to open for a small number of dine-in customers.
“There will be more staff on to serve 10 people than there would be patrons in the actual pub … it just doesn’t really stack up,” Mr Hogan said.
“It’s a mystery to the industry how you can open up gyms and lagoons before you open up a pub.”
Mr Hogan said it would be mid-June at least before pubs could realistically open.
‘It’s almost not worth us fully opening’
Claire Parviz, the owner of Brisbane Italian restaurant Spaghetti House, said coronavirus restrictions had dealt her business a major blow.
“We’re probably around 95 per cent down on normal trade, as is everybody,” Ms Parviz said.
But hearing yesterday’s news that restaurants would be permitted up to 10 patrons from next weekend was “a bit of a shock”.
“I’m a little bit upset at it to be honest,” she said.
“I’ve already had people calling me today about making bookings, and I’ve already had staff calling me, and I haven’t got my head around it yet.”
While Ms Parviz said a gradual loosening of coronavirus restrictions was appropriate, she said she was not expecting the announcement to come so suddenly, or for there to be a 10-patron limit.
“That’s great for the small cafes and restaurants, but it’s almost not worth us opening fully with our operating costs, as it would be if we were allowed to half-fill,” she said.
“I can’t really press on with anything until I’ve had a chance to go home and read through the guidelines and know what I actually have to do — and what it’s going to cost me to get back open.
“There’s a lot of training we have to give our staff to be COVID-ready.
“How are we going to do the training? Are we going to have to do it ourselves, are they going to give us any help with that? There’s a lot to think about.”
Bernard Gillic, general manager of the Mount Isa Irish Club, said opening their 160-seat restaurant for 20 people at a time during stage one of the plan was not a viable operation.
“We only want to restart the operation once — much like the country only wants to be shut down once,” he said.
“So we’ll put up with whatever regulations and restrictions are put in place to make sure this is a one-time thing.
“If you have to prep meals for your whole menu, but then only 20 people come in, then you’ll have a lot of food wastage.”
Mr Gillic said the July date was a “guessing game” and more information was needed around the logistics of the later phases for restrictions easing.
“What we need to know is what will be required to reopen in terms of sanitisation,” he said.
“Until we get a hard date and firm numbers, it’s hard to make any decisions.”
Tourism Council welcomes roadmap to reopen
Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) chief executive Daniel Gschwind said he was relieved there was some clarity for the industry going forward.
“We are extremely appreciative of the fact that we have target dates now when we know we will be open again and can start our businesses again,” Mr Gschwind said.
“That will give great confidence to operators and the community that we have a way out of this.
“We needed hope, we needed a strategy to get out — now we’re on track and hopefully it’ll see us into a better future for the tourism industry and the community at large.”
Mr Gschwind said the tourism industry would work closely with government to make sure restrictions were appropriate as the June-July school holidays approached.
“There are many operators who will have specific concerns about the numbers and the social distancing and how’s it going to be handled?” he said.
“We have to look at this in detail.
“The Queensland Tourism Industry Council is working with the entire industry to make sure we have protocols and procedures in place that can reassure the travelling public that we’re looking after them from a safety point of view.”