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Boost for clubs, pubs and bush as Premier opens up NSW

Pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to at least double their patrons within a month and regional travel will recommence from June 1 in the biggest economic boost to NSW this year.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal Premier Gladys Berejiklian is targeting a four-week deadline to boost patrons in dining venues as part of a push to save the industry, which is on its knees.

Dubbo cafe Alchemy on Victoria is looking forward to more restrictions being eased and ready for any extra customers. Picture: Rohan Kelly
Dubbo cafe Alchemy on Victoria is looking forward to more restrictions being eased and ready for any extra customers. Picture: Rohan Kelly

It comes as regional holidays will be allowed from next month to capitalise on regional tourism, even as the border to Queensland remains closed.

Ms Berejiklian told The Daily Telegraph in an interview the regions would be critical to the state's economic return, and she saw a major market for tourism spending locally.

"Even if some states don't let us travel there we'll invite the other states here," she said.

She noted that money previously spent on overseas travel would now be a new tourism market for NSW.

"If people are spending their dollars locally that has huge opportunities for us. The key is keeping people in jobs she said."

Ms Berejiklian also revealed she and her senior team had closely discussed and considered a region-by-region approach to rolling back restrictions but ruled it out.

On the dining front, a piecemeal approach was also considered which would allow "pilot" openings of certain-sized venues, but this was also decided against.

"We discussed a regional approach as a team but I think economic activity flourishes across the state if there's simplicity and statewide laws," Ms Berejiklian said.

"It's difficult to police if you have restrictions like that and it doesn't help generate economic activity".

 

THE KICKSTART WISHLIST

 

Deputy Premier John Barilaro told The Daily Telegraph the move to open up the state will boost the regions by "hundreds of millions of dollars in the short term (and) billions of dollars long term".

Opening up the state for regional holidays will also give rural towns the opportunity for an economic hit to get them through quieter months. "So for many businesses … June is the last chance to get their cash registers filled with cash that will tide them over the quiet months of winter," Mr Barilaro said.

The move to again allow regional holidays comes after the deputy premier banned Sydneysiders from travelling to the regions, when COVID-19 restrictions were first put in place.

"I was very strong around Easter, I said, 'I look forward to seeing you around Christmas, and I'll buy your first beer," he said.

"Well, Christmas has come early, that shout is on me. June 1 is the day we're going to want to see people into regional NSW."

Mr Barilaro said sentiment in the regions has changed from initial "anxiety about importing the virus," with people now confident the virus is being managed, and the health system has the ­capacity to deal with any ­potential outbreaks.

Looking at June, "about 70 per cent of people in regional or rural NSW, are neutral to the idea or positive to the idea of people coming to the region," he said.

Jacob Stein and his dog Cooper at his winery, Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard, just outside of Mudgee. The business is still closed for tasting but selling takeaways. Picture: Rohan Kelly
Jacob Stein and his dog Cooper at his winery, Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard, just outside of Mudgee. The business is still closed for tasting but selling takeaways. Picture: Rohan Kelly

The government has been gauging sentiment in the ­regions through Service NSW research.

"Every region that we've put research in now clearly shows that they're all positive to having the regions open up for economic benefit."

A government official said would-be holiday makers could expect airlines to boost flights to the regions when restrictions are eased, in line with the increase in demand.

"We want you to follow the guidelines we want you to of course abide by social distancing rules, that is important, but we also want to welcome you into the regions again," he said.

Mr Barilaro said that while Queensland's border remained shut, the northerners would miss the economic ­uplift interstate tourism will bring.

"There's no reason to cross the border, come to the regions instead," he said.

The move was backed by Decentralisation and Regional Education Minister Andrew Gee, whose Calare electorate covers the major regional centres of Orange, Bathurst and Mudgee.

"I've always been an advocate for regional Australia being treated differently because the population density is plainly different, the infection rates are low so there is a very strong argument for (that)," Mr Gee said.

 

PLENTY OF ROOM TO MOVE

Dubbo cafe owners the Davis family say their quaint outdoor setting in an old garden nursery is perfect for social distancing - but with only 10 customers allowed it's tough going.

Chris and Ngaire Davis and daughter Michaela have stepped up their own hours to keep cafe Alchemy going, with only three staff qualifying for JobKeeper subsidies.

Mr Davis said the cafe "took a hit" when forced to close but had pushed through the worst of it.

"The biggest complaint from customers now is we have all this space, about 80 per cent of our sitting area is an outdoor garden area, and we can only have 10 people even though 40 would fit safely," he said.

Mr Davis said he would welcome an easing of restrictions in regions where it was safe to do so.

"We haven't had a coronavirus case out here for some weeks," he said.

"Obviously as they open up travel that becomes more of a concern but we would embrace any new business we could get."

 

IT'S A GRAPE TRAGEDY

A battling winemaker who struggled through drought and saved his grape vines from bushfire smoke hopes visitors will soon be allowed to return and finally taste the result of his efforts. Jacob Stein said his business, Robert-Stein Vineyard Winery and Farm, had been hit by a "triple whammy" of disasters in 2020, with more customers the only thing that can save his bad year.

Mr Stein said being closed for wine tastings had been very "detrimental" to the business, with coronavirus restrictions on tourism also crippling his walk-up takeaway sales.

"Because there are no active cases in our area, we feel as though easing (restrictions) would help locals support locals a lot more," he said.

"We've still been lucky to be able to produce some good wine from the 2020 vintage, but we're not able to sell it."

Originally published as Boost for clubs, pubs and bush as Premier opens up NSW