NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced further easing of COVID-19 restrictions meaning smaller hospitality venues can increase their capacity.

The Premier said the people of NSW have demonstrated that by working together and following COVID-Safe protocols restrictions can safely be eased.

“The community has done an incredible job this year under trying circumstances,” she said.

“I hope these changes provide a boost to the hospitality industry and give people certainty in how they can celebrate safely with family, friends and colleagues over the Christmas and New Year period.”

The new restrictions mean that from Tuesday, 1 December small hospitality venues (up to 200 square metres in size) will be allowed to have one person per two square metres indoors.

In addition:

  • Up to 50 people (currently 20) can visit a residence as long as an outdoor space is being utilised, however, it’s recommended no more than 30 people gather if the residence has no outdoor area.
  • Up to 50 people can gather outdoors in a public space (currently 30).

Also from Monday, 14 December the Public Health Order requiring employers to allow employees to work from home (where it is reasonably practicable to do so) will be repealed. This could prove good news for Sydney CBD bars and pubs who have struggled as a result of far fewer office workers in the city.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant reminded NSW residents that as we head into the festive season there would be more people moving around the community, which means it is vital people continue to come forward for testing.

“More people will be hosting gatherings in their homes, going out for lunches and dinners and socialising – so if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, please come forward for testing,” Dr Chant said.

The announcement comes after Monday’s introduction of mandatory electronic patron check-in  at hospitality venues, including casinos, food and drink premises, micro-breweries, small distilleries, pubs, small bars and registered clubs.

The Service NSW COVID Safe Check-in is strongly recommended as a free, secure and convenient system, but any electronic method that meets the record keeping requirements can be used.

Today’s announcement has been widely welcomed, with John Green, AHA NSW’s Director of Liquor and Policing, saying: “We welcome the Government’s announcement today that further changes to the 4msq rule are expected to be made in the near future. A change to 2sqm as soon as possible is important for consistency and for the additional 9000 hotel jobs it will create in NSW.

“Hotels are proud to have led the way with QR codes on entry to assist with contract tracing.

“AHA NSW will continue working closely with the Government to safely ease restrictions on venues where possible.”

Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Size isn’t everything but moving to the two square metre rule will bring big benefits, especially for smaller venues that lack outdoor space.

“In some cases it will mean doubling a venue’s capacity, allowing operators to serve more customers and employ more staff.

“The changes announced today are only possible thanks to the hard work and diligence of government, venues and punters alike. Vigilance is still required, but as we see hospitality venues closing across the world, it’s amazing to see Australia’s hospitality scene open up even further.”

It was a similar message from Kenny Graham of Mary’s Group, who welcomed the changes but said the need to be vigilant remained.

“Well what a year it’s been, curve balls from every direction, only lending itself to highlighting how resilient our industry can be,” Graham said.

“I think we can probably all agree that Australia has, in essence, done a very good job of containing this pandemic and the fruits are now there to be picked as we watch so many other countries still suffering at its feet, garnering our care and attention.

“We welcome the change in restrictions, noting that remaining COVID safe and ensuring the safety of those around us is of paramount importance. It’s another test, but I think we’re ready to step up to the challenge.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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