HUNTER pubs and hotels face even more financial hardship after the Federal Government tightened its coronavirus restrictions to limit capacity to one person per four square metres.
The restrictions were recommended by Australia's chief medical officers last week and adopted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday as a means to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"If you've got a room, if you've got a premise, if you've got a meeting room or something like that, that's 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room," Mr Morrison said.
"In addition to that, you should continue to practise wherever possible the one metre or 1.5-metre of healthy distance between each of us."
These changes follow earlier restrictions on non-essential gatherings of 500 people, which began on Monday, only to be tightened to 100 on Wednesday.
Within minutes of the announcement several Hunter venues were forced to either close or cease live entertainment.
The Wickham Park Hotel suspended live music indefinitely, cancelling performances scheduled for this weekend.
Licensee Marcus Wright said he was still determining how many people would be permitted inside the Wicko at once under the new restrictions, but said it would be "unviable."
"I don't know why they don't grow a set of balls and say, 'close all pubs and clubs', to be honest," Mr Wright said.
"All I'm doing is losing lots of money and we've had to let go staff.
"The Wicko has had to cancel all inside gigs and we're looking at doing outside acoustic shows. A lot of musicians and bar staff have no money and are crying."
Mr Wright said the Wicko would continue trading for food and drink sales.
However, Maitland's Grand Junction Hotel closed until further notice immediately after the government's announcement.
"It is with heavy hearts that we will be closing our doors until further notice," the venue's Facebook page read. "With the most recent updates from the PM, a cap of one person per four square metres for indoor gatherings, it is no longer viable for us to keep our doors open."
Mayfield's Stag and Hunter Hotel licensee Mick Starkey said under the new restrictions he would likely be limited to 20 patrons in his front bar. However, he hoped to continue booking local Hunter musicians.
"We're investigating doing some really small gigs with local artists to try and give them some kind of income," Mr Starkey said. "Obviously it'll be severely reduced in capacity and what these guys can earn.
"We're really mindful our sound guy doesn't have an income and local musicians don't, we want to offer them a small reprieve whilst trying to maintain our own business."
Newcastle's The Happy Wombat said they were limited to 82 patrons due to the changes, which meant the scheduled "Mini Beer Fest" on Saturday was sold out.
Registered clubs across the Hunter were forced to reassess how they would adapt to the latest restrictions after having made drastic operational changes earlier this week based on the 100-person per room limit.
Like many clubs, Belmont 16s had already cancelled its regular promotional events like bingo, trivia and poker and scrapped some of its membership draws and nightly raffles.
Both the MEX Club in Mayfield and the Doyalson RSL had switched off every second poker machine, which most clubs will likely be forced to adhere to under the latest restrictions.
Australian Hotels Association Newcastle Hunter president Rolly de With said the impacts of the coronavirus restrictions would be "devastating".
"We understand these measures are necessary, however, they will have a devastating impact on the live music industry, hospitality staff and our industry in general," Mr de With said.
"At this stage we're just accessing how dire these impacts may be, however, we do believe it will be short-term and in the meantime we hope everyone in the hospitality community remains safe and finds their way through these unprecedented times."
Earlier in the week popular Newcastle music venues the Cambridge Hotel and Lizotte's both announced their temporary closures due to the coronavirus restrictions.
The Cambridge has postponed all gigs until May and Lizotte's is closed until at least April 15.
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