Premier’s late notice ‘threw us under the bus’
QUEENSLAND restaurants and cafes say they've been caught off guard and ill-prepared and are scrambling to reopen after Sunday's shock announcement by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk allowing hospitality venues to host up to 20 patrons at a time.
As of yesterday, eateries can now host a maximum of 20 diners, up from 10, while from this Friday larger venues can accommodate 20 guests per area. That means a restaurant, cafe, pub or club with one outdoor and one indoor area could host up to 40 patrons at once while maintaining 4sq m per person.
While most venues have welcomed the news, they say the shock wind-back of the restrictions - brought ahead two weeks early - provided insufficient notice and prevented them from taking full advantage of the new rules.
"To have 24 hours to do this, it's just throwing us under the bus really," said Mary Randall, co-owner of acclaimed Brisbane restaurant e'cco Bistro.
"We need to organise staff, we need to organise our wine list, all of that takes time."
The restaurant had been gearing towards the Government's original planned date of 11.59pm on June 12 for stage 2 of the easing of restrictions.
Ms Randall said they would continue to work to that date, opening their function space on June 13 to 20 people. Their main restaurant will reopen a week later on June 20 with a fresh new concept.
The new model will feature a four- to six-course set menu that is prepaid at $89 per head. They will also continue their hugely popular takeaway offering, which they launched at the start of COVID closures.
"The margins are so bleak (in restaurants) that we had to sit down and put our heads together and think how we could actually make our business a profitable business, rather than just buying ourselves a wage," she said.
"This is probably the best scenario we've come up with where we can actually run a … concept like this with a lot less staff and without compromising the customer's experience."
Unfortunately for Danielle Gjestland - owner of award-winning Japanese fine dining restaurant Wasabi at Noosa - Sunday's announcement has done little to help her business, which will remain closed, only offering a takeaway seven-course degustation on Friday and Saturday nights.
She blamed the cost of "switching everything back on again" not sustainable for the business if it was to accommodate for just 20 people.
Tony Kelly, the man behind hugely popular Mooloolaba eateries Rice Boi and Spero, said the increase to 20 patrons per area would make a big difference to his business but said it would be better if restaurants could simply adhere to a one person per 4sq m rule, with no caps on patrons.
Originally published as Premier's late notice 'threw us under the bus'