Table for none? New Covid-19 measures another blow for hospitality industry

New social distancing measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday will see indoor venues, such as restaurants, pubs, clubs, and cafes forced to introduce more drastic distances between patrons.

The new social distancing requirement of four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space comes as the industry is already on the ropes with people choosing to self-isolate over eating out.

Part-owner of 900 square metre, The George on Collins, Khanh Ong, said he was deeply concerned for the industry, especially jobs and rising wholesale food prices.

“Right now, we’re OK because we’re big. But it’s the smaller businesses out there that I’m worried about. The next three to six months are going to be tough for us all. We’ve noticed a drop in business of at least 15 per cent just over the last two days,” he said.

“It’s not just about the food side, it’s the alcohol side, too. If people aren’t socialising then they’re not drinking at the bar and that hurts business.”

“It’s actually getting crazy hard to keep our head above water.”

We have around 50 full-time and casual staff working in our restaurant and bar and we’re all really worried.”

Ong said his restaurant was also experiencing pressures in supply with rising prices and unexpected changes to purchasing procedures.

“Supply hasn’t been too much of a problem, but there are changes which are affecting us. Everything needs to be paid on the day now and this has a massive impact on cashflow.”

“Prices are also definitely going up. Lamb, for example, I’ve noticed has gone up 20 per cent.”

“Fresh produce has had an increase of 30 per cent on average.”

He said The George on Collins had pivoted quickly to adapt.

“We’re moved quickly into setting up a new takeaway menu which can be picked up easily and we’re also cryovacing dishes, too,” he said.

The new measures mean a 100 square metre restaurant or cafe would only be able to accomodate 25 people, including staff.

Restaurant and cafe owners and staff spoken to by GRAM this afternoon described the move as “exasperating.”

One devastated owner said the move and lower patronage meant it was “curtains” for their inner-city restaurant.

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