Freedom fever is in the air at Sydney’s long-standing deserted bars, restaurants and cafés with business owners overwhelmed by bookings and excited about reopening.
But nervous owners say they’re facing a huge problem that is not Covid or fears another lockdown – it’s a lack of staff.
The Daily Mail Australia visited some of the city’s most famous venues along Darling Harbor and Barangaroo before the state reopened on Monday, after hitting 70 percent double doses this week.
Make sure everything is nail and span for Freedom Day. Only fully vaccinated people will get the new liberties within hospitality places from Monday
Michelle Grand-Milkovic from Love Fish restaurant looks forward to returning to work after lockdown, but worried about staff shortages
Freedom Day NSW: What opens at 12.01?
Spotlight stores across NSW, except Miranda and Alexandria
Fernwood Fitness – all 20 fitness centers for women across NSW and Greater Sydney
Steelers pub in Wollongong, which offers happy hour from kl. 12-3 with $ 3.90 schooners and $ 4 wines
City Tatersalls Club in Sydney’s CBD
Easts Bondi Junction in Sydney
Toongabbie Sports Club, Western Sydney – Capacity for 400 guests
Only fully vaccinated people will get the new liberties within hospitality places from Monday.
The word you most often hear from owners and employees is that they are excited to be back in business, but many are experiencing a lack of staff and a lack of clarity from the NSW government.
‘(Lockdown has) been a very confrontational time as a business owner,’ said Michelle Grand-Milkovic, co-owner of Love Fish at Barangaroo in Sydney Harbor.
She said they are ‘incredibly excited to open up, but we also face a number of challenges’.
Excellent among these challenges is finding enough staff to handle the number of bookings they have. ‘Unfortunately, we are probably about 10 employees who are missing the place we need to be. There is a huge shortage in the industry.
‘It’s a combination of us not having the international tourists (to fill positions), a lot of people have left the hospitality industry and we have some employees who do not want to be vaccinated so they are not really able to come back to work. ‘
Mrs Grand-Milkovic said there had not been enough clarity from the NSW government on the rules around reopening.
‘There seems to be so much gray area. All we can do at the moment is follow the public health commands that have been released that say customers need to be vaccinated in order for restaurants to open with 70 percent (of those eligible being vaccinated).
‘It’s one of the areas that I think will be unnecessarily difficult. The government should now really have this check in place. We announced Covid check-in in June 2020. We are fully trained in it and fully compatible.
‘What needs to happen is that when you check in, the tick must appear to say that you are completely vaccinated.
‘That was what the companies were promised and it will apparently not be ready in time. I think they really lost the ball on the one, I think that should be a prerequisite. ‘
Sweep up all the nooks and crannies to make sure everything is spotless before NSW starts reopening
Jessie White says reopening after lockdown is like starting over. ‘We will not return to 100 per cent capacity until we see the international borders reopened’
Down the street from Love Fish is Marble BBQ, whose operations manager Jessie White said reopening is’ like opening a whole new place, except you’ve done it before with all the different lockdowns.
As with many other restaurateurs that the Daily Mail Australia spoke to, he said they have vacancies to fill.
White said the lack of tourists due to Covid restrictions is a significant factor in their business planning.
‘Sydney is a very international city. The moment you lose tourism, I think everyone feels it. In a sad way, it has been helped that so many places have had to shut down or reduce opening hours.
‘So there are a few more customers for everyone (still in operation). We will not go back to 100 percent capacity until we see the international borders reopened. ‘
Like others who run hospitality businesses, White added that the NSW government does not provide enough information. ‘I understand very well that we are in a pandemic that we have never seen before and that everyone is trying their best, but the guidance is not as clear as everyone might want it to be.’
Mark helps companies prepare to reopen after months of lockdown in Sydney, but says some employees are ‘on the fence’ of being vaccinated
Merchant Mark is one of those working to get companies back to their best in time for Freedom Day.
‘Everything has just been sitting here for months, so we pretty much just clean things up and make sure everything is presentable,’ he said.
‘I still have some staff on the fence to get the injection. We are extremely short staffed at the moment.
‘I have two guys sitting at home when I actually need them on the tools. It’s their choice, it’s not my place to say what anyone can do with their body. But in an ideal world, they would be here. ‘
Polishing the glasses is an important job to help get everything ready on time for the reopening of businesses across NSW
Companies hope that tables and chairs that have been empty for months will soon be filled again with satisfied customers
A positive message will help welcome hungry and thirsty customers again, after lockdown eases in NSW on Monday
With time on their hands in recent months, most companies have tried to remain as productive as possible, including experimenting with new food choices.
‘We have prepared a new menu in lockdown with Indonesian and Thai food,’ said Kevin, who runs an Asian food restaurant.
‘Sometimes I feel really worried (about reopening), but it’s exciting that we can finally open up again. It will probably take a month to get back to the place we were before, ‘he said.
‘The last three months have been very boring, you can’t go outside, you can’t do anything. Now we return to life.
” I hope everyone has the same feeling that they are returning to life now, returning to normal, seeing people around you and talking to them, ” said spicy restaurant employee Himanshu.
‘If everyone gets vaccinated and follows the rules, we’re almost on our way (to get back to normal). If we take full care of ourselves, that’s the most important thing (thing). ‘
Spiced’s chef is busy preparing his restaurant to reopen after it was closed for more than three months in lockdown
Staff make sure they are fully stocked with alcohol and food as they prepare for reopening in Sydney on Monday
‘We’re lazy long enough, so just that kind of preparation for next week makes us all excited.
‘We lost some staff because over the last three months, but 80 percent of our employees are able to return. I hope at the end of the summer (we will return to normal trading), said a bar employee with the very apt name Iso.
Jeremy Fraser, licensee at Bungalow 8, said he and his staff are ‘ecstatic’ with the prospect of reopening.
‘We have been preparing for this for months and months and counting days and hours down. We are ready to roll and open and the taps are floating on Monday. ‘
Mr Fraser then used a phrase we have all heard a lot about in the last two years. ‘We have a new normal from now on. We’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen over the next 12 months, but we have a good roadmap now that gives us some clarity. ‘
He is encouraged by the number of bookings his company receives. ‘Reservations are the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I have worked in hospitality for 15 years and I have never seen anything like it. For at least two weeks in a row, we are full most nights of the week. ‘
Fraser added that with limited space and massive demand, the next few months will be very busy, especially for outdoor, waterfront locations like his. ‘The line we hear a lot is “I really miss the pub and I look forward to returning.”‘
While most companies are grateful to finally reopen, some in the hospitality industry are furious that they will be limited to serving only 20 diners at the tables when the lockdowns in Sydney end on Monday.
Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said the sector had a mixed reaction to new Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet’s announcement of easing restrictions.
The tables and chairs are empty now, but there will be high demand on Monday when NSW opens after more than three months of lockdown
Perrottet also announced that from Monday, outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people, up from 20, would be allowed, while weddings and funerals would be allowed to host 100 people, up from 50.
When 80 percent of NSW is fully vaccinated, up to 3,000 people will be allowed to attend controlled and ticketed outdoor events, up from 500.
Nightclubs will only be allowed to reopen for seated drinks without dancing, and masks will no longer be required in office buildings.
NSW’s head of health Dr. Kerry Chant allegedly did not support Mr Perrottet’s roadmap out of lockdown and warned that his plan had risks. She was noticeably absent at a major press conference in Covid on Thursday.