NSW pub Queanbeyan Royal Hotel shot from the street.
Queanbeyan’s Royal Hotel will consider how they manage the 50-patron limit from Monday 1 June, having run eight pre-booked sessions daily for up to 10 patrons since 15 May. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

Today the NSW Government announced that pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants will be allowed up to 50 patrons from Monday 1 June.

But if you’re a Canberra resident hoping your local will be able to host 50 patrons come the start of next month, don’t hold your breath.

“We’ll work through what’s going to work for our community and for our venues,” ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said today.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman is currently working on advice for the Government as to which businesses will reopen as the ACT moves into stage 2 of the National Cabinet’s three-step COVIDSafe framework.

“Whether it’s by venue or by enclosed area, those are the kinds of conversations we’re having about what’s going to work best,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

In relation to what the ACT will announce come 29 May, without going into any specifics Ms Stephen-Smith referred to how the Territory moved into stage one; with an initial announcement about public gatherings, with a business notice following a week later.

“That probably provides some guidance of the way we would think about going forward,” she said.

Across the border in Queanbeyan, Royal Hotel owner Anthony McDonald told Canberra Weekly that after opening to 10 patrons at once last week, moving to 50 “so quickly” is fantastic.

“It’s just another positive sign that we’re back on track in terms of opening up toward our full operations.

“Our capacity is upward of 500-600, so 50 is not a huge number but it’s a really positive step,” he said.

All venues in NSW, including pubs, will be required to keep up social distancing, and the one person per four square metre rule.

The Royal Hotel have kept their kitchen open for deliveries and takeaway throughout the pandemic.

Since 15 May, the hotel have run eight sessions daily from 12 noon to 9pm with all customers required to book in advance.

Mr McDonald estimates they’ve been serving 60 to 70 patrons a day.

“It’s been well received, and people are just itching to get out; it’s been a long time since a lot of people have had a draught beer,” he said.

“I’ve got several emails during the week recognising that we’re not making money but thanking people for the contribution that we’ve made.”

Mr McDonald said he will have to consider how the 50-patron limit is managed at his hotel.

“With 50 we’ll need to think about whether we go back to the booking system or put some constraints around time.

“We’ll make sure management is alive to the fact that only 50 people are allowed in and manage trading patterns accordingly,” he said.

Mr McDonald said he’s excited to be able to bring back on their numerous casual employees who didn’t qualify for JobKeeper.

The Royal Hotel has hosted a few live gigs since they reopened, but Mr McDonald said with the NSW pub 50-patron limit he will be able to put out a full roster with the 20-30 regular musicians.

Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe said he hoped the NSW’s move to a 50-patron limit would encourage the ACT Government to take a more tailored approach with the local hospitality sector.

“If Canberrans can safely enjoy a meal at the pub in Queanbeyan, they should be able to safely enjoy a meal in the ACT.

“Canberra’s hospitality sector should also have the opportunity to operate at greater capacity where safe to do so,” he said.

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