WA coronavirus restriction easing not enough for pubs, beauticians, tourism industry


While the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Western Australia has been welcomed by many, the hospitality and tourism sectors have warned that a lot of businesses still will not be able to open.

There are also concerns about “a nightmare scenario” for the Kimberley region, which remains closed off to travellers as it heads into what is normally its peak season.

Premier Mark McGowan announced on Sunday up to 20 customers at a time would be allowed to have a sit-down meal in a cafe, pub or restaurant from May 18, so long as there was room to allow four square metres of space per patron.

The Windsor in South Perth is one of Perth’s biggest pubs, and manager Max Fox-Andrews said it was likely to stay closed.

He said while the hotel had plenty of space for the four-square-metre rule, it was not economically viable to open for only 20 patrons.

“Given the size of the venue, and given the kitchens and the power and the perishable product we’d have to purchase in order for us to remain open, we go by the saying ‘it’s better to be fully open, than half-open’,” he said.

“The core of hospitality is plentiful numbers, and it needs plentiful numbers to create atmosphere.

“With 20 people I don’t believe that can be created. I also believe it’s not profitable for a business of our size.”

The front bar at The Windsor Hotel is likely to remain empty with reopening for 20 people economically unviable.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Restaurant inundated with bookings

Little Way restaurant owner Corey Stott said he was “over the moon” about being allowed to offer dine-in meals again and had already received several bookings, despite being closed for two months.

The Nedlands eatery re-opened for takeaways on Saturday in anticipation of some dine-in customers being allowed.

A man in a striped T-shirt stands in front of a bar
Owner of Little Way, Corey Stott, said he was “over the moon” to be reopening for dine-in customers, though he still would not be breaking even.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Mr Stott said while the 20-person limit was welcome news, Little Way would still be operating at a loss until the limit was eased further.

His venue has a capacity of 120 people and is regularly filled with diners.

“With 20 people we would be well under our break-even point, but having the JobKeeper certainly helps,” he said.

“All the staff that are on at present are on JobKeeper, otherwise we wouldn’t have opened today.”

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WA Premier Mark McGowan announces further easing of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, including allowing gatherings of up to 20 people.

Tourism operators worry

The tourism sector has welcomed the easing of travel bans, but warned that some operators might find it “challenging” to reopen with the cap on numbers and the social distancing measures.

Most intrastate travel restrictions will be lifted from May 18, but travel into and out of the Kimberley will remain banned.

WA Tourism Council chief executive Bevan Hall said while it was positive to have a roadmap to go forward, each business would have to consider whether it was economically viable to reopen.

He warned of a “nightmare scenario” for the state’s north, particularly the Kimberley, if it cannot open up until the start of its dry season in September.

“We’re very worried that towns like Broome will simply fall over if they open up too late,” Mr Hall said.

“We’ve already missed one school holidays, they’re not open now, and we need a very clear roadmap for when they can open.”

A camel train walks along Cable Beach
The Kimberley could be facing a “nightmare scenario” if it cannot open by the start of the dry season, the Tourism Council is warning.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

Mr Hall said the council planned to hold talks with the State Government this week, to try to come up with a safe and sustainable plan to reopen the north.

There will also be discussions on exactly when tourism operators such as wineries and whale watching tours can operate.

Beauty industry upset at delayed reopening

Meanwhile, some sections of the beauty and cosmetic industry are angry they have not yet been allowed to re-open.  

Mia Brankov, the clinic manager at Bramis cosmetic clinic in Inglewood, said she was “dumbfounded” by the decision to keep businesses like hers closed.

A woman stands outside a beauty clinic.
Beauty clinic manager Mia Brankov says she’s dumbfounded her business cannot reopen yet.(ABC News: Charlotte Hamlym)

“Our industry is run by doctors, nurses and therapists and we’re abreast of infection control guidelines even outside of a pandemic, so to try and argue that we’re any less equipped to reopen than a pub, a gym or a hair salon, it just defies logic for us,” she said.

Ms Brankov said the clinic would have no problem managing the cap on customer numbers and by not opening, the clinic was losing the opportunity to start rebuilding its business.

“For us to allow 20 people through our doors, they’re the building blocks of starting again, whereas for a pub or a bigger hospitality to open a venue, they’re probably operating at a loss and I can’t imagine that many of them would open their doors under the new guidelines anyway,” she said.

“To choose one industry over another, it really doesn’t sit right with us.”

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