Venue owners’ warning to PM over easing restrictions
DEVASTATED Gold Coast hospitality bosses and the business lobby are cautioning Prime Minister Scott Morrision not to ease coronavirus restrictions too much, too soon.
Mr Morrison has signalled crippling clamps on society will be reviewed in four weeks but some operators warn a cooped up public are ready to party and it could set the country back.
Ze Pickle co-director Aaron Wilson who shut his Burleigh burger bar in late March to protect customers even before forced closures said: "We definitely welcome it, as long as it's safe. We're just unsure of how it's going to work. Are we going to have limited chairs inside?" he said.
"The biggest thing is we don't want the virus to flare up again and for everyone to have to go back into lockdown.
"Everyone is itching to go out and that's one of the concerns. If we do open, how busy is it going to be? Will it be mayhem?"
Broadbeach hospitality king Pat Gennari said if venues reopened with strict social distancing restrictions it would not be worth it and cost more money than being shut.
"Restaurants, bars and clubs are going to be the last thing to open. (I) guarantee, and it won't be happening until they've controlled the virus because it will just spread like wildfire again.
"Everyone will go out, everyone will party. People are so urging to go out now it would just start spreading the virus again. I'm not even thinking about opening."
Artesian Hospitality partner Matt Keegan - whose stable includes nightclubs Sin City, Havana and The Bedroom, plus bar-restaurant White Rhino - said he would be surprised if the shutdown eased by mid-May for hospitality.
"It will depend on data around virus transmission but my hope is we get there as quick as possible," he said.
"We have bought ourselves time to adequately track and trace, as the PM has said. I think practically speaking it will be an easing of restrictions similar to way we saw them implemented - with moves towards opening hospitality, retail but on a restricted basis."
Mr Keegan said restrictions were "having a scary impact on everyone".
"I don't think the impact of the restrictions or economic devastation can be understated, in particular for staff. Yes they have access to income support measures but some are struggling to get access. Or are in a situation where it doesn't cover expenses," he said.
"People are losing money, losing savings they have built up for their future and it is devastating for a lot of people and will continue to get even worse if we can't get back to a situation at some point where we return to life as normal."
Small bar king and bar-restaurant owner Scott Imlach - who has Hideaway Bar & Kitchen, Bine Bar & Dining, Mr Hizola's, Nightjar and Nightcap said his hospitality network was bleeding.
"We're ready to go back whenever they let us."
He said he believed restaurants and cafes would be the first to open with social distancing requirements.
"I don't think they'll allow any big pubs to open or any of the small bars," he said. "I still think we're four or five months away from opening the bars and the pubs to be honest."
Mr Imlach said it was tough to stomach closures when the number of new cases a day was in single figures: "Some things we don't understand. You go to the supermarkets and they're packed, go to Bunnings and it's packed and we're going, well, hold on it maybe a necessity, but what's the difference between them and going to the beach, or a restaurant.
Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said: "The thought of easing restrictions will certainly be welcomed, as long as it's sensible and appropriate at the time. A lot is changing on a daily basis."
"What people have learnt in this is that life is too short to take chances (with safety)," he said.
"But the opportunity to start trading again is going to be welcomed, given 97 per cent of our business on the Coast are small and medium sized, generally family owned."
Mr Hall said some businesses embraced takeaway and deliveries but "it's never going to fill the void a full featured service has".
Ze Pickle and White Rhino have both recently joining the takeaway ranks.
Greater Southern Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce president Hilary Jacobs was hesitant about restrictions easing so soon.
"We would prefer Queensland does the right thing in regards to coronavirus as it sits at the moment," she said.
"We want to plan for after but we need to get to the after. While there are people not following guidelines about not going to the beaches, about social distancing, being in big groups, that four week plan is at great risk."
Mr Morrison said on Friday three things were needed to unlock the country - boosting local response capabilities, better tracing to prevent outbreaks and more extensive testing.
Originally published as Venue owners' warning to PM over easing restrictions