As many as one in five restaurant bookings are being cancelled in Sydney as fears of contracting COVID-19 or being forced into isolation ahead of Christmas lead people to stay home by choice.
The Sun-Herald contacted more than a dozen Sydney restaurants and bars which all said they had taken cancellations from customers who have either caught COVID-19 or were a close contact of someone with the virus.
More than 5000 people in greater Sydney tested positive for COVID-19 last week. However, people who were simply at an exposure site are now unlikely to be deemed close contacts after the rules were re-defined on Wednesday.
People living in the same house as a positive case, or their romantic partners, will still be deemed close contacts, as well as those who were at a venue with high levels of transmission, such as the Newcastle nightclub.
NSW Health can also declare someone is a close contact, but people who have been vaccinated and come into contact with a close contact only have to isolate until they get a negative test result.
Elliot Solomon, chief executive of Solotel which operates 24 bars and restaurants across Sydney and Brisbane including the Golden Sheaf, Aria Sydney, the Clock Hotel and Opera Bar, said his group had lost 20 per cent of its bookings across its pubs, bars and restaurants all the way up to end of year – in just the past two days.
Several hospitality managers said the COVID-safe protocols have become confusing because pubs, clubs and other ‘high-risk’ venues still have mandatory QR code check-ins, while restaurants don’t.
A restaurant manager at Sam Prince hospitality group, which runs five restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne including Kid Kyoto and INDU Sydney, said Kid Kyoto alone lost about 120 customers to cancellations in the past week.