COUNTDOWN: Pubs counting down the days to reopen
IT'S all hands on deck for Ballina's Slipway Hotel as the local watering hole prepares to reopen on Monday June 1 when NSW Government coronavirus restrictions will be eased.
On Saturday morning, owner John Hobson was thrilled to receive an email from the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW, informing him that his customers will once again be able to enjoy a feed and a drink come winter.
With little more than a weeks notice, and knee deep in renovations, Mr Hobson and licensee Kel Campbell are racing against the clock to ensure that the doors will be open for their loyal, and rather "thirsty", regulars.
"We've been bombarded with phone calls daily. People asking 'are you open?' or 'we've got 10 people, can we come in for lunch?'," said Mr. Campbell, who made the difficult decision to delay reopening despite laws enabling 10 patrons at any one time.
"It just wasn't viable and you can't look after everyone," he said.
"I'd hate to be the one out the front saying you can't come in.
"It just wasn't right for our customers.
"It makes it quite selective and a lot of people would have missed out."
But maintaining the venues welcoming and community-centric reputation did not come without consequences.
With no cash flowing in, Mr Hobson was still tasked with covering the cost of licenses, permits and insurance.
"While the pub was still frozen in time, there were still outgoings," said Mr Campbell.
"For all your licensed premises, anywhere, it's big money just to keep the pub shut.
"So now, at least, we can start that flow up and give people their jobs back."
From Monday June 1, hotels will be permitted to have up to 50 customers for each separate dining area, as long as strict hygiene and social-distancing guidelines are adhered to.
According to the email sent to hotel owners, the terms state that customers will not be required to order a meal as a condition of service, gaming rooms and TABs will be permitted to operate, and the owner will need to keep a record of patrons attending the venue.
Unable to connect face-to-face, Mr Campbell and Mr Hobson have kept in close contact with their customers throughout the lockdown period; reaching out to ensure that they are coping mentally during this time.
"Change is hard to adapt to and there's been a real mental element. But now we've got a place for people to meet and talk," said Mr Campbell.
"Even though they'll be social distancing, it's good for the community."