Bartenders have relished the “phenomenal” feeling of pouring a beer into a glass pint and diners have embraced a glimmer of normality as NSW restaurants and bars reopened after an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
The state’s restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs are now able to have up to 10 patrons if they maintain social distancing after the NSW government wound back several restrictions from May 15.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned COVID-19 case numbers will inevitably rise as rules are eased, but punters on Friday seemed comfortable returning to their favourite bars and eateries.
In Sydney’s inner west, Shannah Baichoo was among the first to return to popular Summer Hill bar The Rio, resuming what was once a regular Friday night ritual with her husband.
“It’s like a signifier of life becoming normal again. It feels amazing,” Baichoo said.
Nearby, Lisa Polsek said visiting the bar offered a bit of normality but “baby steps” were important.
“The worst thing would be is if we all have to go back again,” she said.
For The Rio’s operational manager Fabrizio Culici, pouring his first beer into a glass pint felt “phenomenal” after weeks of take-aways and deliveries.
“The sense of relief is just fantastic,” Culici said.
“We just hope … that this is certainly not going to be a short-lived thing and we go back to deliveries, because it’s going to be very hard to survive if that happens.”
A couple of doors down at The Temperance Society, co-owner Alex Fensham shared similar concerns about having to wind back again.
He welcomed having people back at the bar but said they were “pretty nervous” about opening trade for just 10.
“It took an enormous shift and it actually cost us a lot of money to shift at short notice from being a bar to a take-away,” Fensham said.
“We’re all feeling pretty happy to have people in here now, but whether it actually works out financially, I don’t know yet. It’s worth a shot.”
Under eased restrictions, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted and up to five people, including children, can visit another NSW household.
Religious gatherings and places of worship can welcome up to 10 people, and 10 guests are also allowed at weddings, 20 at indoor funerals and 30 at outdoor funerals from Friday.
Outdoor equipment including gyms and playgrounds can now be used with caution, with people encouraged to wipe down the equipment, while outdoor pools are open with restrictions.
By Jodie Stephens