Hospitality industry considers serving only vaccinated patrons
Hospitality industry bodies are considering only serving fully vaccinated patrons in a bid to open up earlier in locked-down Victoria and NSW.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the NSW government is looking at allowing some hospitality venues and shops to reopen, in low-risk settings, once the state reached the 70% vaccination threshold set by national cabinet.
“In that low-risk area of 70%, which we should hit about the middle of October, we can go back to things like alfresco dining, you can maybe look at pubs, clubs, cafes and retail reopening,” Mr Barilaro told the Seven Network on Monday.
Mr Barilaro said some COVID measures such as mask wearing and capacity restrictions would remain in place for such venues, and the freedoms would only apply to vaccinated patrons and businesses.
“There are going to be more freedoms for those who are vaccinated, for businesses that have their staff vaccinated, for individuals who are vaccinated, at 70%. Those that aren’t vaccinated won’t see any freedoms in real terms,” he told reporters.
Industry body Restaurant and Catering Australia recently made a submission to the NSW government to serve only customers vaccinated against COVID-19 if it would allow businesses to trade at capacity before the nation reached the 70% vaccination threshold.
Restaurant and Catering chief executive officer Wes Lambert said there needed to be “a carrot” to get to the 70% level.
“Ultimately we’re looking at the fastest way for hospitality to get open and if that means in the beginning it starts with vaccinated patrons first – well every premier and company has been talking about incentives for vaccinated people,” Mr Lambert said.
Under the current plan agreed to by national cabinet, lockdowns will be less likely once 70% of the Australian population has been vaccinated and then, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, to ultimately move away from lockdowns in the third phase when 80% of eligible Australians have had both doses of the vaccines.
While hospitality venues want to see vaccinations targets reached, they are divided over who should dictate to customers and staff the need to be double jabbed before opening up.
Mr Lambert said survey results showed 64% of the association’s members in restaurants, cafes and catering companies wanted the government to mandate vaccinations, 63% wanted to be able to mandate vaccinations for their employees and 53% wanted to mandate vaccinations for their customers.
“So it certainly remains an issue and ultimately we are calling on the NSW government and the Victorian government to have a transitional [trading] period before 70%,” Mr Lambert said.
David Canny, the Victorian president of the Australian Hotels Association, said publicans would “embrace” being open only to vaccinated customers if it meant trading at capacity sooner.
“In Victoria, our members have given us directions to go to government with a process of hitting a vaccination target and that means pursuing mandatory vaccinations of staff and a vaccination passport-style system [for customers] and to pursue the opportunities that arise if that allows us to get back open again,” Mr Canny said.
The AHA expects to release a national plan this week that would require pubs to check on the vaccination status of patrons.
“It’s important we get a national approach to this so that all states can get back up and operational,” Mr Canny said.
He said the AHA was taking time to get the logistics right, in terms of how it would work at the coalface and the process around checking vaccination passports.
“We’d love to see venues that can offer a vaccinated environment being opened up earlier and get them back trading,” he said.
“So we want, pubs want, to trade their way out of this and we know we need capacity for that which means vaccination is the only way to go. We’ll look at all options here.”
For most pubs, getting staff vaccinated is a bigger immediate concern than the vaccination status of patrons.
“We think that’s the first stage. Mandatory vaccination of staff, subject to the legal framework, is something we can enforce from the start,” Mr Canny said.
Mr Canny said staff overwhelmingly supported vaccinations. “It’s not just support for me saying ‘you need to be vaccinated’, it’s support for the staff member coming back to work that knows that the person next to them is vaccinated.”
The AHA is seeking legal advice on whether or not it is reasonable for publicans to mandate that all staff have their vaccinations before returning to work.
Mr Canny said for most staff, the biggest issue was the time between doses for the two main vaccinations currently on offer in Australia.
“They see that we’ll open up in November and you’ve got to have your two jabs and Pfizer is the only way to be double jabbed by November,” Mr Canny said.
The Victorian government said it will follow the national plan for reopening once the 70% vaccination threshold is reached.
“Until we have enough supply to vaccinate our state, proposals on how vaccine passports can be used in hospitality settings are not under consideration,” a government spokesman told realcommercial.com.au.
The United Workers Union, which represents hospitality workers, was approached for comment but did not respond before publication.