Not every business owner in the Northern Territory is planning to throw open the doors as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
- NT the first in Australia to ease COVID-19 restrictions
- Social distancing will still apply and business owners are apprehensive
- Not all businesses are taking the opportunity immediately
Simon Matthews, co-owner of upmarket restaurant Pee Wee’s at the Point, is keeping the doors shut — and his dozens of staff off the job — for another three weeks until early June.
Many other businesses are opening at noon today to take advantage of stage two of the NT Government’s Roadmap to a New Normal.
Mr Matthews said the new rule of restricting gatherings to less than two hours would be difficult to manage and feared bad press if they were not successful.
“It’s very difficult for a business like Pee Wee’s to do a normal trade in two hours — it’s very difficult for us to police,” he said.
“It puts us and our clients in a very difficult situation.”
He said parties arriving in dribs and drabs would make it hard to get everyone served and fed before they must be politely shown the door.
“We’re not a fast food joint,” Mr Matthews said.
“Small tables could be in and out in two hours, but it’s not the Pee Wee’s experience.
“We don’t want to overstep the limit and be highlighted as the business that ruined it for everyone else.
Show me the way
Bhairab Yogi, owner of Stuart Park Nepalese restaurant Yogi’s Way, was eager to get the doors open at the first opportunity.
The sharply-dressed professional has been doing deliveries.
“It’s been really tough and scary and I’ve been nervous about what’s going on,” he said.
“We went through really, really quiet times and everyone was panicking and didn’t want to come out.”
But local residents and students have been volunteering to help with deliveries and keep the restaurant afloat, in return for some tucker.
While Mr Yogi used to be able to feed about 110 people in a night, that would probably be halved under new physical distancing measures.
“It is a very exciting and big day for us,” he said.
Roma wasn’t built in a day
Roma bar owner, Phoebe Breyer-Menke, has found the positives in being forced to become a takeaway-only business.
She has met all her customers by delivering to their doorsteps, and she will continue to offer the takeaway service.
“We adapted quickly and started to do the freezer packs where you get 10 meals frozen,” Ms Breyer-Menke said.
“So they’re for people who haven’t been able to get in, or [who were] in quarantine, or doctors and nurses working really hard, not having time to make their own food.
“That really helped us to try stay afloat.”
She also applied for a grant to buy a vacuum-pack machine and heat sealers to continue the takeaway service.
Customers walking in the door will notice a few new arrows and traffic diversions, but everything else will remain the same.
But a big concern is the looming dry season, when the town is usually flooded with visitors for six months, but this year nobody is coming.
Smith Street Social distancing
All eyes on the first weekend of freedom will be on some of Darwin’s busiest watering holes: Shenannigans and Monsoons, both owned by the Australian Venue Company.
At the company’s newest NT bar, the Smith St Social, groups up to 10 people must stay in their ‘bubble’ and will be given wristbands stating their entry time into the bars.
They must leave after two hours and cannot socialise with people from other bubbles.
“Obviously bubbles can’t mingle with other bubbles,” marketing manager Carly Balding said.
In a town known for its friendly atmosphere, that will be hard to police.