It’s been a long time between beers for Sydney venues and their regional counterparts, but they finally celebrated reopening this week across the state.
And punters flocked to them in droves, with some even queuing the night before “Freedom Day” to ensure they could celebrate the moment the doors of their local were unlocked. Their enthusiasm reflects the results of a national survey conducted by Bundaberg Rum’s Raising the Bar initiative earlier this month, which revealed that three quarters of Australians feel confident about visiting their local club, pub or bar when restrictions permit.
The founder of me&u, Stevan Premutico, summed up the mood pretty well: “They say you don’t know how much you love something until its gone. Well hospitality we miss you, we love you and we need you. Sydney sucks without you.
“For the past 106 days something sacred has been missing. Life just hasn’t been the same without you. The tears, the joy, the laughter, the jokes, the ideas, the memories, the human connection. See hospitality, you are what brings us together, you make our great city tick and you make our hearts sing.
“Walking around town today, its so beautiful to see the flurry of activity as the cobwebs are dusted, the tables and chairs are lined up, the kegs are checked and the chefs fire up the flame for the first time in a long time. There is an energy that is unlike anything I have seen in a long time.”
Easts Bondi Junction – the home of the Sydney Roosters – announced on social media that it would be opening its doors at 12.01am on Monday, October 11.
“Be the first to see your mates and have a cold beer! We can’t wait to see you again,” it said.
City Tattersalls, Wests Ashfield, Canterbury Leagues and Fairfield RSL were also among the clubs reopening parts of their establishments – including gaming lounges – at 12.01am on Monday. At Canterbury Leagues Club there were huge lines at midnight, stretching way out into the parking lot.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet headed to Watsons Pub in Paddington, Sydney, to pour a pint and copped criticism for standing up to drink it inside, as the health regulations clearly state that “you must be seated while drinking alcohol”.
His office insisted today that the “pub wasn‘t actually open”. As a result, they had not booked a table at a bar. They had simply appeared for a media event and had a sip of a drink.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, who has been a long-time champion of craft brewers, celebrated with a beer at Willie the Boatman, in St Peters.
Minister for Digital, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello – who is overseeing the roll-out of the vaccination passport – celebrated the end of lockdown with a glass of red at Mr Wong with Restaurant & Catering CEO Wes Lambert.
Brewers have been lending their support to venues. Furphy is giving fully COVID-19 vaccinated punters a free beer at participating venues as part of its national ‘Vaxxed to the Pub’ initiative.
“We’re thrilled that the day has arrived when we can extend some support for our hospitality mates, and shout everyone a free Furphy, straight from the keg,” said Lion Craft Director Malcolm Eadie. “We’re looking forward to seeing patrons enjoying that heavenly moment when the froth from their first fresh cold Furphy hits their lips.”
Furphy brewer Lion has delivered 30,000 kegs of beer to venues across the state in time for today’s reopening, reuniting locals with the keg-fresh beer they’ve been looking forward to for months.
CUB is raising a glass to Sydneysiders for rolling up their sleeves and doing their bit to help the city with its reopening, by sending 50,000 kegs of fresh beer – equivalent to nearly 6 million schooners – to restock venues.
CUB has ramped up production to ensure Sydney is well-stocked with fresh beer in coming weeks. Its Yatala Brewery in Queensland is brewing an extra 50,000 kegs of beer this month, including Great Northern, Victoria Bitter and Resch’s, which is being driven into the city by dozens of trucks.
These kegs contain around 2.5 million litres of fresh beer and production will ramp up even higher in the warmer months as restrictions ease.
Re-supplying some of Australia’s most popular beers into nearly every pub and club throughout Sydney has been a major logistical exercise, but it’s one CUB says its been thrilled to do.
“It is now tremendously important for people to come together and support their local venues in a safe way – to protect the community, keep the momentum going and help ensure more restrictions can be lifted soon,” the brewer noted.
Pub owners struggle with staffing issues during reopening
Australian Hotels Association NSW Director John Green raised a glass at The Mercantile in The Rocks to celebrate Freedom Day.
“It’s the first step in what will be a really long road,” he said. “We’ll be operating at 25%. We’re finally able to employ our staff and be part of the recovery.”
Watson’s Pub co-operator Mike Watson (above, right) said the Moore Park venue had been inundated with bookings, but finding staff for reopening was challenging.
“We rely on overseas travellers, backpackers and the like, they’re just not here, or they’ve taken roles elsewhere,” he said. “We have really struggled to find staff.”
Steven Speed, the publican of the Fortune of War, told The Daily Telegraph the damage of such a long lockdown will take a long time to repair.
“After 106 days (of lock down) the question is how long it’ll take to recover,” he said. “There’s been no tourists, very few office workers, no ships – traditionally we open at 9am and it’s nothing to have 15 or 20 American tourists in here by 10am.”
However, he reckons the pub industry will come back swinging.
“I think the Aussie spirit is to keep fighting to get to the end of it,” he said.