25,000 pub and club jobs overnight if venue rules ease

 

Licensed venues have demanded an end to uncertainty and "ad hoc" COVID rule changes by the Berejiklian government that are preventing tens of thousands of employees from resuming work.

With venues entering the busiest time of the year and no community transmissions, the industry says the state needs a plan to move to a one person per two square metre rule.

Pubs say it would immediately create 9000 new jobs while NSW clubs have around 16,000 employees waiting to resume work.

Bar baron Justin Hemmes has said continuing restrictions are preventing him from hiring 1500 people while at The Star Sydney, it is understood around 350 staff are still sidelined with the casino's 2000 capacity at a fraction of its pre-COVID levels.

The pressure follows revelations the state government's state emergency operations centre crisis cabinet (SEOC) was split over the question of allowing larger venues to move to one person per two square metres on Wednesday with Premier Gladys Berejiklian pushing a more cautious line.

Pub baron Craig Laundy, who owns Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, says its time for a roadmap out of COVID. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Pub baron Craig Laundy, who owns Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, says its time for a roadmap out of COVID. Picture: Justin Lloyd

Publican Craig Laundy, who said he was operating at "50 per cent capacity", said moving to a two square metre rule would allow half his workforce to return.

But more importantly businesses wanted a clear pathway out of restrictions to be able to plan for the future rather than "weekly announcements".

"There should be a plan as to what will happen after we go without COVID for 18 days, 28 days, not these weekly meeting and ad hoc announcements," Mr Laundy said.

"They should sit down and plan the next three weeks. This is the most important time for the hospitality sector. We have been smashed all year since March.

"Gladys has done an amazing job with COVID. But we just need certainty. We can't operate when things are uncertain. Hopefully, the finish line is in sight."

Australian Hotels Association NSW Liquor and Policing director John Green said the move to two square metres would "immediately" create more than 9,000 new jobs in NSW.

He has also called for there to be greater consistency in the phasing out of restrictions.

"There should be consistency and moving to one person per two square metres would immediately create over 9000 new jobs in NSW pubs and thousands more in the broader hospitality industry," he said.

"Pubs have led the way with QR code sign-in that is now widely accepted by the public and allows for contract tracing if needed.

"NSW has done incredibly well to manage the pandemic. We've now had 20 straight days of no community transmission and we need to keep moving forward. We believe we can do it safely and recreate thousands of desperately needed jobs in the process."

Maddy and Dafne enjoying a drink at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, yesterday Picture: Justin Lloyd
Maddy and Dafne enjoying a drink at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, yesterday Picture: Justin Lloyd

Some senior government figures have speculated the premier may be holding off on "good news" until December 7, when she will receive a draft submission from the Independent Commission Against Corruption on the inquiry into her ex-boyfriend Daryl Maguire.

"This is their media strategy - pushing out good news when she's the subject of bad news," one source said.

Ms Berejiklian said she relied on health advice in making her decisions.

"The next step that we want to take in relation to the two square metre rule is to apply it to the entire hospitality industry so there is consistency," she said.

"We will rely on health advice but I do not expect the industry will have to wait long for that announcement."

Over at The Star Sydney, it is understood around 350 staff are still waiting to return to work after being stood down in March while the casino capacity under existing restrictions is a fraction of pre-COVID levels at less than 2,000.

North of the border in Queensland where restrictions are less prohibitive with one person per 2sqm and no cap on indoor venues in play, the Treasury Brisbane is operating with a capacity of around 5,000 while The Star Gold Coast is around 7,000.

At peak times pre-COVID The Star Sydney would have a capacity of around 10,000. It is also understood The Star is hoping NSW will bring an end to the requirement for patrons to be seated while drinking, which Queensland already allows.

The Star no longer receives JobKeeper assistance in Queensland because its business has recovered sufficiently and could soon be off JobKeeper in NSW if restrictions are further eased.

A spokesperson for The Star said the casino would continue to work with the Government on the way forward.

"We continue to engage closely with the NSW Government and thank them for their collaborative approach during the pandemic," he said.

"We look forward to further easing of restrictions, getting people back to work and assisting the economic recovery."

Woolloomoloo Bay Hotel patrons Dafne, 26, and Maddy, 29, say they are looking forward to restrictions easing.

"More people are going out, but the restrictions make it hard to talk to people without being moved apart."

Dafne, a student from France living in the CBD, said there was a more relaxed atmosphere among patrons in venues compared with earlier on in the year, but the restrictions made it difficult to socialise.

"We barely meet new people," she said.

Originally published as 25,000 pub and club jobs overnight if venue rules ease



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