Coronavirus restrictions in South Australia are easing from today and people are feeling more comfortable venturing out of their homes — but instead of celebrations, the changes are causing widespread confusion.
- Restrictions on restaurants and cafes are being eased from today
- Pubs will follow suit in two weeks, but there is uncertainty about the exact arrangements
- Some small bars thought they could reopen but also have to wait until June 5
Restaurants and cafes can expand their service from today to include indoor dining.
While a big topic for many is when they can go to the pub for a drink, it turns out that’s not an easy question to answer.
Small bars — or at least those with small venue licences — will still not be able to open until June 5 either, despite many not looking that different to restaurants.
The confusion has cost Adelaide city wine bar East End Cellars about $5,000, after its operators mistakenly thought it could reopen today under the easing of COVID–19 restrictions.
East End Cellars had brought in food supplies, printed new menus and extensively cleaned its toilets ahead of a planned relaunch.
However, owner Michael Andrewartha said an early morning call from the licensing commissioner changed those plans.
“The fine line is that we are a bar, even though there’s no bar here or a bar licence, so we had to not open today, which is disappointing for everyone,” Mr Andrewartha said.
Premier Steven Marshall said the State Government wanted to limit the total number of people flocking back to eat and drink out, as well as the number or patrons in individual venues.
“We apologise for that confusion but what we’re trying to do is lift the restrictions in an orderly way and keep the coronavirus at bay.”
Consumer and Business Services said it would let individual venues know they could be in breach of the rules if they were “opening in the mistaken belief they are able to open”.
Pubs originally intended to reopen indoor dining on Monday, June 8 — but health authorities have brought that forward to June 5 so hoteliers can capitalise on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend trade.
That is a “common sense” decision, according to Ian Horne from the state branch of the Australian Hotels Association.
“It would have been nonsense to start reforms on the last day of a long weekend, so thankfully they’ve recognised common sense should prevail,” he said.
When can pubs reopen in full?
The short answer is: we don’t know yet.
How things will look when pubs and licensed venues reopen on June 5 is not absolutely clear.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said authorities were taking a “principled approach” to restrictions — meaning it won’t be a one-size-fits-all ruling.
“That will enable them to take full advantage of the economic benefits of reopening their businesses.”
That decision is a relief for some business owners, particularly those with larger venues.
It means that, rather than the previous ruling of only 20 patrons inside, a larger pub with multiple dining areas could be allowed to cater to more people given the bigger floorspace that will allow for social distancing to occur.
Going to the pub for a sit-down meal will be allowed from June 5, but depending on the size and layout, the owners will need to consider their obligations once further details are released.
If they deem it to be viable, and they choose to open, patrons should be able to head to their local on June 5 to enjoy a meal with friends.
Determining when you can go back just for a drink in the bar is more uncertain — at this stage it looks like only seated dining and drinking will be allowed.
Some pub owners are disappointed with the news, particularly those who don’t serve food, like the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton.
“It won’t be viable for us to open under those conditions,” said Wheatsheaf owner Jade Flavell.
What about restaurants, cafes, gyms, salons and clubs?
Restaurants and cafes can now serve 10 people for outdoor dining and 10 people for indoor dining, and the rules have changed to allow the service of alcohol.
So, those who have been looking forward to supporting their favourite restaurants — and they’ve chosen to open — can go as early as today.
Police will also resume stationery drug and alcohol testing this weekend. Even though mobile random breath tests have been in operation the whole time, officers are expected to be out in force.
Wallis Cinemas’ drive-in cinema at Gepps Cross will reopen next Friday, June 29, but other cinemas will have to wait until June 5.
Those wanting to work out at the gym will also have to wait a little longer — but can return from June 5 in some capacity.
The guidelines are still being drafted, but you should be prepared to clean equipment before and after use and there may also be restrictions on the number of people allowed in at any one time, depending on the size of the facility.
People wanting to attend indoor exercise classes may also be able to go back from June 5 — but, again, details on how it will work are yet to be provided.
Some operators may decide it’s not viable to start back up if they have to reduce class sizes by too much to allow for social distancing.
June 5 is also when beauty and nail salons, massage parlours and tattoo shops can all open, but more details are expected on how many people can be inside at any one time.
You might not get an appointment straight away if the operators can only have limited people inside, and there may be a back log of customers to clear.
Spas and saunas remain closed as authorities say there’s a higher risk of transmission in those sorts of places.
Activities that involve larger gatherings — such as going to the football or a nightclub or food court — will not be resuming any time soon.