The state’s restaurants and pubs have locked into a “no jab, no dine” approach to reopening, with industry associations calling on the NSW government to allow vaccinated staff and patrons back to the table as soon as next month.
In a submission to government on Friday obtained by The Sun-Herald, the Restaurant and Catering Association proposed a relaxation of restrictions in September to allow outdoor dining, with limited indoor dining based on capacity, for vaccinated people only.
Meanwhile, the Australian Hotels Association said it would support mandatory vaccination as a first step to restarting pubs. “We would support a platform where staff and patrons had to be vaccinated if that allowed us to reopen sooner,” said AHA NSW director John Green.
To make that happen, the AHA is also calling for a special vaccination drive for the state’s tens of thousands of hospitality workers, similar to today’s “tradie Sunday” at Sydney Olympic Park, many of whom are 18 to 35.
But with a record 466 new cases reported on Saturday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian talked down suggestions pubs and restaurants could start to reopen before the state reaches 70-80 per cent full vaccination coverage.
She had asked NSW Health to look at “some categories of low-risk and safe ways that vaccinated people can interact [in September and October] but I do not want to raise expectations in terms of hospitality”, she said.
However, Mr Green said it was reasonable to reopen pubs in areas with high vaccination rates and low case numbers. “Those are easily the areas we could target in the first instance,” he said, but acknowledged that was unlikely in the next four to six weeks.
The restaurant association took a slightly different view, preferring to reopen for outdoor dining only across the board, arguing the risk of reopening LGA by LGA was a single case could prompt a snap lockdown.
“That level of uncertainty is just totally unsustainable for businesses owners,” RCA chief executive Wes Lambert said. “What NSW needs is a suite of rules that allows the hospitality industry to get open and stay open safely.