Thanks to the commitment of the Canberra community, including our clubs, stepping up and doing the right thing over many weeks, the ACT has not recorded a new case of COVID for 16 days. That is a huge accomplishment, matched in Australia only by the Northern Territory.
ClubsACT has also been working hard to get our clubs back up and running.
I personally appeared before a committee related to COVID-19 to discuss the impacts on clubs and to suggest a way forward. I have also provided a draft plan for clubs to the ACT Government, its officials, the United Workers Union and the ACT Chief Health Officer. The purpose of this document was to start a discussion about how we might open up our clubs, and what we are able to do to reassure our communities.
On Monday, we also called on the ACT Government to keep pace with other jurisdictions and urgently provide local clubs, and hospitality more broadly, with guidance on next steps towards business as usual.
In fact, we asked for a roadmap to be provided to the hospitality sector with the next steps. The following day the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr announced that roadmap and that we would move to the stage 2 easing of restrictions on 30 May.
We congratulate the ACT Government for this step, but there is more work to do.
Most clubs have buildings of significant square meterage, designed to seat hundreds of customers. Typically most clubs are over 2000 sqm, and others like the Vikings Club Erindale or the Southern Cross Club Woden are over 5000 sqm. We can do physical distancing.
A limit of 10 or 20 patrons per venue will not help our clubs return to profitability or get staff back to paid employment. Most of our clubs will remain closed until we can get back to, as a minimum, 100 patrons in our venues. An email from the Hellenic Club to its members, explained they have three family owned and operated businesses within their walls and because they are located inside the club, they can presently only share ten patrons. They are effectively penalised for being inside a club, where if they were in the shopping centre nearby they would be treated differently.
In putting our argument forward, I do want to assure you that we are saying we will be vigilant in monitoring and enforcing whatever rules are put in place – in fact, some clubs have already taken those steps. We want to get this right.
We are also mindful that there remain substantial numbers of workers mixing in offices, tradespeople working in residents’ homes, thousands of people visiting supermarkets and retailers, including big box retailers, all of whom still remain open. Our clubs are ready for the same.
Things are also moving at a different pace in other jurisdictions. If you haven’t been keeping up with this, Victoria has a plan in place to allow 20 patrons per enclosed space by 1 June. From Friday this week, South Australia will be able to seat 20 patrons in restaurants and cafes – 10 inside and 10 outside. Western Australia is already allowing up to 20 patrons per venue, and clubs in the Northern Territory no longer have mandated customer numbers.
The reason why the states vary so much is because the 3 step framework announced by the Federal Government was presented to the States to deploy based on their prevailing circumstances. Despite some other states having not yet reached the public health outcomes achieved in the ACT, consideration for large venues to utilise their separate areas is yet to materialise.
Alistair Coe, the Leader of the Canberra Liberals, has made the case for this publicly, calling for a nuanced approach to larger venues like restaurants, clubs and hotels with varying operation capacity. Using an example of restaurants with multiple dining areas which “…could reasonably and safely serve more than 10 patrons across separate dining rooms.” We agree.
We urge the ACT Government, to consider this as an option, particularly with venues that have large spaces. We favour clubs reopening with up to 100 patrons, with strict physical distancing, hygiene and tracing rules in place. People in hospitality want to be back at work and doing what they love – serving customers. Clubs want to get back to serving their communities.
We will be ready, when the ACT Government gives us the go ahead.
If you want to have your say, you can always email your local members.
For media enquiries please contact:
Gwyn Rees, ClubsACT
0410 902 982