You are allowed outside for a picnic with your family thanks to an easing of coronavirus restrictions in Queensland — could a meal in your favourite restaurant be next?
- Restaurant owners say they will switch to disposable cutlery and menus
- The industry wants rules relaxed so people can eat out again
- To reopen, they’ll need patronage of at least 50 to 60 per cent
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would begin discussions with the industry this week to work out how restaurants and cafes could be “COVID-safe”.
Restaurant and Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said he was hoping for a re-opening within weeks.
“Follow our practical guidelines and we believe that restaurants can be open by June,” Mr Lambert said.
What would a safe eatery look like?
Restaurant and Catering Australia has proposed the following:
- A register of guests
- Tables and chairs cleaned after each patron
- Disposable menus
- Disposable or recyclable cutlery
But there could be a sticking point in the numbers.
At the moment, Queensland Health guidelines state that when gathering to pick up takeaway there must be 4 square metres per person.
Mr Lambert said they would need that rule to be relaxed for indoor dining.
“Social distancing in restaurants of 1.5 square metres is what we’re asking for, which mean restaurants could have about 50 or 60 per cent capacity rather than 25 per cent,” he said.
“Most of the restaurants in Queensland have told us that at 25 per cent they just could not operate.”
When will the Government decide?
Whether restrictions are wound back further will depend both on what National Cabinet decides this Friday, and on whether there is any surge in cases as a result of the small freedoms granted this past weekend.
But Health Minister Steven Miles has also said it would take a fortnight to notice any such spike arising from an easing of restrictions.
Police issued just 32 COVID-19 infringement notices on Saturday as Queenslanders were given permission to picnic, bushwalk, boat and shop with their family within a 50 kilometre radius of their home.
Just one new case of coronavirus was confirmed in Queensland yesterday.
Across the state, there are now only 53 active infections, most of them in South East Queensland.
Mr Miles has, for the moment, ruled out any shifting of the social distancing rules in regions.
“If we were to start changing them region by region, that creates an added level of difficulty for Queenslanders to comply, but also for businesses to comply, and also police to do enforcement,” he said.
‘A tough ride’
Most restaurant owners have been struggling to keep their businesses going since they were shut down on March 23.
Stanley Yang owns a Japanese restaurant in the Brisbane suburb of Rosalie and has switched to a takeaway menu only.
Mr Yang kept on only skeleton staff and converted to takeaway.
“We merely survive because rent is very expensive and plus labour and everything.
“We hope to be opening very soon. At this stage, it (takeaway) doesn’t really cover the cost.”
Back to ‘that full experience’
Freja Dunnell and her husband Nathan run a small fine dining restaurant in Wilston and their turnover has been slashed by 80 per cent.
Like many eateries, they aimed to keep afloat with takeaway options, but they are keen to go back to their previous business.
“I have heard a rumour about, we might have to use disposable cutlery — and we’re definitely open to any suggestions that the health authorities tell us, we’ll definitely be following,” she said.
“But at the same time, we won’t reopen until we know we can give people that full experience from start to finish.”