Illawarra restaurants, cafes and venues have had their wish answered this week with the NSW Government easing restrictions enough for them to take Christmas group bookings with more confidence in coming weeks.
Buoyed by the busiest start to the season at Jamberoo Action Park since 2013 and growing interest from families wanting to dine out in a group this holiday season, Jim Eddy said the announcement by Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday was exactly what those in the Illawarra hospitality industry wanted to hear.
Mr Eddy said it was really positive news for Steamers Bar and Grill and City Beach Function Centre and it was a positive move by the NSW Government at a really important time when people in the community were looking at their options.
"We have already received quite a few Christmas bookings but we were walking on broken glass dealing with them because we weren't really sure what we would be allowed to do," he said.
"We are already getting three or four bookings a day for tables larger than two or four people. Now we will be allowed to take bookings for anything up to 30 people.
"Our maximum has been 10 up until now but there are a lot of people wanting to have their family or office outing at a restaurant and they often want more than 10."
Mr Eddy agreed with the Premier that eateries with COVID safety measures and marshals in place was a safer way for family groups to celebrate all in one place over a meal.
"We have an inspection being done right now by the Health Department on our COVID-safe policies. We get one of those every couple of weeks. It is important groups of people do dine in a safe environment," he said.
Mr Eddy said the recent conversion of the Ocean Room at City Beach Function Centre into a funky, beach side dining space during October worked well and is likely to be extended because it has allowed many of the small office and business function bookings to be held in that space.
Mr Eddy said what he would really like to see now is the four square metre rule reduced to two square metres. He said the venue was presently running at around one third capacity and with Christmas coming bookings will fill fast.
Mr Eddy said it would also make it easier with weddings. While the Premier announced they can now be held for up to 300 guests that relies on the venue being large enough and that would require a space of 1200sqm which is a huge room.
Lorraine Mercuri and Max Borsato at Northbeach Pavilion Pizza Restaurant, Bar and Kiosk said the easing of restrictions for hospitality venues was fantastic news for the industry and the community.
"We have had six months of operating under Covid restrictions so we are well versed in managing this much needed easing of restrictions that in a sense is a pat-on-the-back for NSW residents," Ms Mercuri said.
"Since the announcement we have been swamped with inquiries and are looking forward to hosting larger groups in a Covid safe environment with Covid safe practices. It puts a smile on everyone's face to get together and celebrate."
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