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Pubs, clubs navigate new normal

Saturday, 6th June, 2020

Secretary manager Doug Coff checks assistant manager Mandy Turley’s temperature at the front entrance of the Broken Hill Sturt Club. PICTURE: Myles Burt Secretary manager Doug Coff checks assistant manager Mandy Turley’s temperature at the front entrance of the Broken Hill Sturt Club. PICTURE: Myles Burt

By Myles Burt

Pubs and clubs are slowly opening back up to the public after COVID-19 restrictions officially eased.

NSW Government eased measures on June 1, allowing pubs and clubs across the state to host up to 50 customers at their venues. 

Sturt Club Secretary manager Doug Coff said reopening preparations have been their biggest challenge, training staff to handle new policies while also informing patrons of how to abide by their club’s new COVID-19 measures.

Patrons are required to be seated when drinking and aren’t able to freely mingle between tables.

Staff have also been taking temperatures at the front doors, supplying hand sanitisers, logging in entry times and grabbing contact details from members so they can identify anyone who needs to be contacted.

“It’s just finding what the new normal is, that’s the trick,” Mr Coff said.

“Everyone’s been really working together and the customers have been very understanding, they understand they’ve got to change the way that they act in venues.”

Mr Coff said it’s been a tricky process especially as the NSW Government has been frequently updating the restrictions.

“It’s not the gov’s fault, they’re doing the best they can, but you just kind of catch them and they change where the goalposts are,” Mr Coff said.

The Sturt Club has been reaching capacity most nights with the club only allowing 50 members in the venue.

Mr Coff said they could allow up to 200 people based on the regulations but decided against it. Mr Coff hopes to see the one person per four metres squared rule eased in order to allow more people to enter the club.

“We’re going to keep it to a limit where we can manage the people easily and not having people accidently breaking the rules,” Mr Coff said.

After ten weeks away, Sturt Club staff were excited to get back to work. However, Mr Coff said staff were still worried about the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Everyone’s still got lots of questions but I think our policies are pretty well in place, everyone understands where they’re going with it,” Mr Coff said.

“I’m working on a what happens if we do get an outbreak policy now, and hopefully we’ll never have to use that.

“It’s definitely been challenging, it’s definitely been interesting to try and think outside the box and cover all your bases.”

Mulga Hill Tavern owner Dean Trengove said he and his staff were in the same boat as they try to navigate new government guidelines after COVID-19 restrictions eased.

Mr Trengove said he and staff are doing the best they can to ensure staff and patron safety while making sure their venue is abiding by the new measures. Like the Sturt Club, Mr Trengove said the Mulga hadn’t been taking reservations.

“We’ve got a fair size capacity so we just allow people to come and go as they please,” Mr Trengove said.

“As long as it meets the four square metre rule, it basically works out.”

Mr Trengove said it’s been great to see COVID-19 restrictions ease on June 1, as pubs and clubs across town have been feeling the economic hit.

He said the Mulga has been  able to continue trade through areas such as food takeaway and their drive thru bottle shop. However, Mr Trengove said times were still tough with businesses still unable to see the bottom of the hole they’re in yet.

“Jobkeeper has basically been the saving grace because without it we would’ve been closed by now,” Mr Trengove said.

“We’ve just got to try and do our best to get out of the hole I guess.

“On a brighter note it’s not as long as the six months that we first anticipated that we might be closed, although it was 10 weeks, it’s still a very long time.”

Mr Trengove said it’s been hard for locals to adapt to the new pub measures as lot want to socialise between tables and others have been reluctant to hand out contact details when entering the pub.

“Just a few have gotten a little bit antsy about handing over their phone number but if they don’t hand over either a working email address, a phone number or a driver’s licence then we can’t let them in,” Mr Trengove said.

“Health will come along and if there is no contact details on that contact sheet then fines are up to $11,000 for us not complying.”

Mr Trengove said the usual and popular Friday nights at the Mulga won’t be back on the table until restrictions are lifted, mostly due to the patron per area restrictions and the fact that patrons must be seated whilst drinking.

“There’s always the quiet crew who want to come in and have a beer with their mates after work which sort of suits,” Mr Trengove said.

“But the party crowd is going to be a little more restrained I guess for still some time to come.”

Both the Sturt Club and the Mulga Hill Tavern encourage their patrons to return and locals to support local pubs and clubs in town doing it tough.

Mr Coff and Mr Trengove have asked for local support in understanding and persevering with staff over new measures that are in place due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“You don’t want to get cross with your customers, we don’t want to be big brother and try and gather information and stuff that isn’t required.”

“But I don’t really think anything’s over the top currently.”

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