Thu. May 19th, 2022

Kazuko Nelson says she will be “home again”, she is most looking forward to when pubs reopen on Monday after being closed due to lockdown since June.

Nelson started running the Hero of Waterloo pub at The Rocks in Sydney 28 years ago with her husband, Ian, and says her pub staff are “just like my family”.

After Ian died 10 years ago, she says, “that’s all I have left in this country.”

The pub reopens on October 11 as part of the New South Wales Government’s Covid Roadmap for Recovery, welcoming regulars who love the rich history of the century.

“I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to reopen the doors and be a part of it [our customers’] festivities, ”she says.

Triangular sandstone building on a narrow corner
The reopening of the century-old Hero of Waterloo pub in The Rocks awaits anxiously by its regulars. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian
woman standing in shadow with sunlight shining through a window
Kazuko Nelson, who has run the hero in Waterloo for 28 years, says her staff is like family. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

Pub regular Arthur Carney has been going to the hero for 30 years.

He counts the days down to the opening night and is not worried that social distancing rules are ruining the “homely vibe” of his favorite drinking spot.

“I see a lot of people who have to feel very lonely [during the lockdown] without being able to go to places like the hero. It’s a very social place, ”says Carney.

A picture frame hangs on a sandstone wall
A picture of Ivan Nelson hangs on the outer wall of the Hero of Waterloo above the fireplace. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

As part of reopening measures, all companies must have Covid security plans, including one customer per. 4 square meters and mandatory seating consumption.

But the measures do not bother Carney. “I think it’s just going back to being the same, that’s what’s nice about it [the pub], it is constant, ”he says.

John Palmer, who has been visiting the pub for the past 20 years, says he can’t wait to get back to his “second home”.

Originally from the United Kingdom, he and dozens of expats have celebrated St. George’s Day at the pub for 20 years and they are all “absolutely crazy about it”.

“It’s been exactly the same ever since I walked in the door, and it gives a sense of comfort and security.”

Like Nelson, many business owners throughout the city were worried about when they would be able to open their doors again.

Gray-haired man sitting in front of sandstone wall
The Hero of Waterloo regular Arthur Carney says he is counting down the days down to the pub reopening. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

York Lane bar owner Dieter Steinbusch finally sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

He says his regulars are so desperate to get back to their favorite drinking spot that they are ready to “lick the door handles on the pub” when it reopens.

His European-style bar, tucked neatly between Sydney’s hidden lanes, might be easy to miss, but its regulars know exactly how to find it.

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“We are like their second home and they are like my second family,” Steinbusch says.

He has already been inundated with phone calls from customers trying to reserve a seat at the bar with 30 seats.

“I’ve already had customers call me and ask if I should be open Monday night because they want to come in and we’re their first choice.”

The man is standing in a dark bar with his hands on a bench
When Dieter Steinbusch’s York Lane bar finally reopens, he will greet his customers with a special ‘Latins in the Laneway’ event. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian
Dieter and his chef DK discuss stock orders for opening
Steinbusch and his chef DK discuss stock orders for reopening. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

This week he is hosting “Latiner in the Laneway” especially for his clients, many of them motorcycle enthusiasts.

At night, he says, those who have been stuck in local government areas in strict lockdowns can “turn off some steam” and get a few beers and appreciate some “beautiful bikes”.

“[The bikes] are works of art, ”he says.

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During the lockdown, he has kept in touch with regulars who have supported him throughout the journey.

“Hard work and good service can pay off, and it took lockdowns to make me realize that people appreciated what you do and it makes you work harder.”

Dieter Steinbusch makes a signature espresso tonic
Dieter Steinbusch makes a signature espresso tonic. Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

He also says he has been visiting in his youth, after taking knee pain again while the bar had limited opening hours.

“I have recovered the knee with an old friend from school and we have relived that memory.”

One of his really good customers had given him a kneeling last lockdown to thank him for giving a positive space to his staff.

“[The gift] should say thank you for inspiring him and his [team], and to be positive, ”says Steinbusch.

It is the support of the community around him and his locals that he says will keep the doors open for years to come.

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