A LATE shout has given Hunter pubs the chance to open their eateries this week after NSW Treasurer Dominic Perretet confirmed they were included in eased rules.
Restaurants and cafes will have the option to open for up to 10 patrons under strict social distancing measures from Friday as the state transitions back to allowing recreational travel with social distancing.
Pubs and clubs were included last night after Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday morning said they were excluded due to health recommendations viewing the behaviour of their patrons differently from other venues.
"I appreciate the frustration expressed by the pubs and clubs, and in fact, in NSW our treasurer and our deputy premier and key ministers are meeting with industry to work out a plan for NSW," Ms Berejiklian said in a television interview on Wednesday morning.
"When our medical experts are asked why restaurants and cafes open and not pubs their response is that it's easier to maintain social distancing in a seated restaurant or cafe situation, whereas in a pub if people are mingling and what have you it's a bit more difficult."
Clarendon Hotel licensee and general manager Mark Cappellacci said he was glad to see progress on reopenings but frustrated the clarity came just days before the reopening flagged on Sunday.
He said 10 patrons was unlikely to make reopening the pub's full kitchen viable beyond an event, such as a dinner for regulars.
With its staff stood down, the pub will today begin selling takeaway beer in a bid to get some back to work and bring in some revenue.
Mr Cappellaci said he believed NSW was handling the crisis well but it did not make sense to separate pubs from other eateries.
"As soon as you start to cut pubs and clubs into a separate section, you're kind of earmarking that they will be the last to reopen," he said.
"It hasn't changed much for us as a venue, really, but it will definitely help some of the country venues. By all means it's a positive for pubs still."
Even with larger capacities, Mr Cappellacci said an eventual return to trading carried uncertainties.
"I don't think it's going to bounce back to full on trade," he said. "You're going to have less people in your venue, but you almost need to have more staff because you are going to need someone to govern that social distancing and enforcing those rules.
"I think accommodation will be the first thing that will open for us, and then your food and beverage later on."
Staff had been eager for a chance to head back to work, he said, and had been keeping in touch with regulars through social media.
"They're itching at the bit to get back there," he said.
"[Reopening for takeaway beer] is awesome because we'll probably get some of the locals that want to come in and chat with the staff. They sort of miss each other."
Several restaurants who spoke to the Newcastle Herald had declined to reopen eat-in dining despite their eligibility.
As the reopening of some venues approaches, the hospitality workers' union and the hotel lobby locked horns over safety in the resuming workplaces.
The union put governments on notice that it fears hospitality workers could become victims of bad practices in the rush to re-open the economy.
The United Workers Union on Wednesday flagged major concerns in a position paper, arguing that staff may come second from Friday when venues across NSW can re-open to a maximum of 10 patrons and must enforce strict social distancing.
The union's national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the industry had an appalling record on worker welfare and strict measures were required.
"We have very real concerns that the federal government and state governments have tunnel vision in the re-opening efforts, and are going to put profits before safety," he said.
"We are calling on governments to implement mandatory training for all hospitality staff prior to any venue re-opening; the provision of paid pandemic leave for all hospitality workers; and a zero-tolerance approach to any employer who does not comply.
Australian Hotels Association national chief executive Stephen Ferguson said hospitality staff returning to work, including in hotels outside NSW, was a crucial first step.
"People have bills to pay and JobKeeper isn't going to last forever," he said.
"Hoteliers have put the health of our staff and patrons first since the start of this crisis and will continue to do so."
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