No ‘sawtooth’ approach for pubs and clubs reopening

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has assured pubs and clubs that the move to reopen popular social venues will be done thoughtfully and thoroughly, avoiding a ‘sawtooth’ approach, where businesses have to open and close and open and close to keep control of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There needs to be the certainty to keep moving forward all the time. So to have that, you need to have [a consistent plan] in place,” he said after a National Cabinet meeting last Tuesday.

The National Cabinet is meeting again today (Friday, May 8) to further discuss Australia’s Covid-19 restrictions and possibly lift further social and business limits.

Mr Morrison has already indicated that a major component of today’s decisions will be around how businesses can reopen, not just a flat reopening order.

“All industry groups, all businesses, doesn’t matter as [Attorney-General Christian Porter] said whether you are an abattoir or a newsagent, you should be thinking about the sorts of things that you can satisfy yourself about in terms of having a COVIDSafe environment, as well as those who come in and out of your shop, your patrons to ensure that is sustainable,” he said.

Specifically for pubs and clubs, Mr Morrison said his government has been working with the Australian Hotels Association and the Restaurant and Catering Association.

Jarrad Rossiter, CEO of The Club Tumut, said he expects a slow reopening to pubs and clubs, predicting it may not happen until July.

“I can’t see them rushing into it,” he said. “It’ll be a staged approach.”

Mr Rossiter said with kids sports picking up again in July, it’s likely that pubs and clubs will need to be reopened to provide crucial sponsorship for junior teams, but he said the busy, social environments are a difficult place to maintain social distancing and strict hygiene practices, with customers and staff exchanging glasses and cash numerous times in an evening. 

Club Tumut already had careful cleanliness policies in place before Covid-19, with sanitiser stations to help staff protect themselves from the germs they were encountering, but he anticipates that the National Cabinet will introduce limits around reopening clubs such as closing every second pokie to preserve social distancing and limiting the number of people allowed inside at any one time.

In the meantime, Club Tumut is trying to keep its books balanced, with bills still arriving for insurance policies, electricity and past creditors. 

Mr Rossiter said the club will need at least a few weeks to re-hire and re-stock before being able to start operating again, a position most pubs and clubs find themselves in, which is why he doesn’t expect any sudden announcements. 

However, he said it would be “devastating” if the club has to wait until August – or later – to reopen.

“We’re losing too much money,” he said.