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New South Wales’ pubs, clubs and restaurants allowed to seat up to 50 patrons from June 1

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet having a beer with the owner Justin Small at The Balmain last week. REDIT: EDWINA PICKLES. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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SYDNEY, May 22, 2020, SMH. Pubs, clubs and restaurants will be allowed to seat up to 50 patrons from June 1, as part of the next step in relaxing the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the move was an “important, critical, big step”, but it would only be done with strict social distancing measures in place.

“This decision has been made with expert health advice and both businesses and patrons will be subject to strict rules and guidelines,” Ms Berejiklian said.

She warned dining would look different compared to the pre-COVID-19 world, as she announced the new measures at the popular dining strip of Stanley Street in Darlinghurst on Friday.

“Even something as simple as having joint cutlery on a table won’t be able to exist anymore,” she said. “A simple buffet won’t exist anymore. A communal food bowl won’t exist.”

Venues will be required to ensure patrons are seated before they are served and distanced in line with a four-square-metre requirement.

Group bookings above 10 people will not be permitted.

Ms Berejiklian said the government would work with the sector over the next week to bed down the specific requirements and regulations venues will need to comply with before the June 1 changes.

It comes one week after cafes and restaurants were allowed to reopen with 10 patrons, provided they served food. However, many venues decided against reopening because the 10-person limit was not financially viable.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the announcement would allow regional NSW to embrace visitors when the restrictions on travel are also lifted on June 1.

“We’ve opened up the regions and now it’s our happy hour, it’s time to wine and dine,” Mr Barilaro said.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the announcement meant NSW was leading the nation in terms of reopening the economy.

“There are about 280,000 people employed in this sector of the economy and allowing venues to safely cater for more customers will provide another boost to business and jobs,” he said.

He said the government’s decision to lift the limit to 50 patrons would help save thousands more jobs than if the next limit had been set at 20 patrons.

The government agreed to take the step after negotiating with the Australian Hotels Association and ClubsNSW.

Clubs and RSLs that have multiple restaurants, cafes or bars on site will be able to seat 50 patrons at each venue.

Claude Tropea, owner of Stanley Street institution Bill & Toni’s Italian Restaurant, said the increase to a 50-patron limit would allow him to hire back four or five staff.

“It’s not just the staff. We’ve got customers showing up these days hoping to sit and we can’t accomodate them,” Mr Tropea said.

“It’s been very difficult, very stressful.”

Hotels Association NSW chief executive John Whelan said the move was a “important and a positive step forward” for NSW pubs.

“The entire hospitality sector has been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis with hotels shut down across NSW and 94 per cent of our workforce of 75,000 stood down or terminated,” he said.

Labor spokesman for the night time economy John Graham welcomed the move, but said businesses were “overwhelmed” by the number of recent changes and needed clear guidelines on how they can safely open.

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