‘You can see tumbleweeds blowing in Surfers Paradise’

GOLD Coast small business operators are racing to be ready to welcome up to 20 patrons from midday today after being blindsided by the increase and fuming about the border staying shut.

From noon today the state will move to Stage 2 of the Queensland Labor Government's roadmap to easing the state's restrictions, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk making the announcement today. Picture: News Corp/Attila Csaszar
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk making the announcement today. Picture: News Corp/Attila Csaszar

Under the changes:

• Gatherings of 20 are allowed in homes, gyms, health clubs, sports clubs, pools, art galleries and places of worship, provided they have COVID safe plans in place.

• Travel will be allowed within Queensland, with no restrictions on overnight trips.

• Up to 20 will be allowed in cinemas, theme parks, arcades, concert venues and stadiums.

• From this Friday, some venues will be allowed to hold more than 20 people if they submit COVID-Safe plans and have sufficient room to house at least one person per four square metres.

But state borders will stay closed for at least another month, with the decision to be reviewed at the end of June.

The Bulletin understands furious and struggling small business and tourism operators on the Gold Coast are still planning to join a statewide protest aimed at sending a strong message to Premier Palaszczuk for eased restrictions and the border block to be removed as soon as possible.

The Premier said bringing forward the new patron limits and involving more sector was on the back of low coronavirus figures and consultation with the business community.

Yesterday, the Gold Coast had just one active coronavirus case remaining of the 193 it has recorded so far. Queensland has five remaining active cases.

Ms Palaszczuk said the easing of restrictions was "the boost" the tourism industry needed.

"This is tremendous news," she said. "The best way families can support our multibillion-dollar tourism industry this year is for the school holidays. There's no better time to hop in the car and go for that once in a lifetime trip around Queensland.

"The only reason we are able to move forward with our planned stage two ahead of the original June 12 date is because Queenslanders have listened to the advice, acted on that advice and done an outstanding job of helping to smash the COVID-19 curve."

Gold Coast operators criticised a lack of notice saying it left them little time to prepare for more patrons with extra staff and venue preparation.

Business leaders said the changes, while a welcome step forward for the hospitality industry, would ultimately not do enough to revive the Gold Coast's shattered economy.

Glen Day. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Glen Day. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen

Gold Coast Restaurant Industry Support Association president Glen Day said the full benefit of the changes would not be seen until interstate travel was allowed.

"It is certainly a great move but the Gold Coast right now has no tourists and we need people to be coming here to fill these extra seats," he said.

"I doubt I would be able to find 40 people to fill two rooms of one of my venues on a Monday night," he said. "It is great we have gone up from a limit of 10 people but right now you can see tumbleweeds blowing through Surfers Paradise."

Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said hospitality operators were the big winners but reopening the theme parks was critical.

"There isn't a lot of clarity around the theme parks and that is a kick in the guts for those operators because they can't reopen until they are allowed at least half capacity."

The empty carpark of Warner Bros. Movie World. Picture: Jerad Williams
The empty carpark of Warner Bros. Movie World. Picture: Jerad Williams

Theme parks bosses met the Premier last week and are yet to be given a clear reopening date. Village Roadshow boss Clarke Kirby said he still had no clarity on when the parks would reopen.

"I was surprised the chief health officer referenced that only Australia Zoo had submitted a COVID safe plan. Village Roadshow and Ardent have submitted detailed COVID safe plans over a week ago and are yet to hear anything back from anyone," he said.

"We assume we will be having conversations with the government this week.

"This is critical to our financial modelling, reopening and future employment."

Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Mayor Tom Tate welcomed the Premier's announcement.

"This is wonderful news and another step towards returning to our normal lives," he said.

"The Gold Coast is open for business. I'd encourage anyone who can, to open their wallets and enjoy the goods and services that our city and broader Queensland have to offer.

"Congratulations Gold Coast - our good work with social distancing and hygiene have been key to this outcome."

Originally published as 'You can see tumbleweeds blowing in Surfers Paradise'