Ease restrictions further - Royal Hotel

By Robert Muir

The first moment Lis Newnham heard there was an easing of COVID-19 restrictions relating to hotels from last Friday, she felt hopeful.

“But when I heard the maximum amount of patrons for the entire hotel was 10 my heart sunk,” Lis, who along with husband Michael owns the Royal Hotel in Corowa, told The Free Press.

“Our hotel is large with seven areas for dining we could safely have 10 people in each area with a safe 1.5 metre distance between them all and adhere to the four square metre rule.

“So although we would love to reopen, with a limit of 10 people we can’t come close to covering costs.”
The Newnhams purchased the magnificent, steeped-in-history Royal Hotel in June 2017 and opened for business after some renovations in October 2017.

Originally built in the late 1800s, the renovations are in keeping with the hotel’s history-feel in upgrading the main bar and kitchen area.

The Newnhams understand the need for social distancing to ensure everyone stays safe. With such a large hotel and seven separated dining areas however, the Newnhams are confident they could easily keep everyone safe using the social distancing guidelines and still have 100 patrons.

“Putting an arbitrary number on what is safe for every establishment doesn’t make sense,” Lis said.

“I think most people understand the importance of keeping our distance from people you don’t live with.

“Apart from a few people, the vast majority of people are being very responsible every day, as shown when they do the shopping at supermarkets.

“So I think the same distancing rules could easily be used in each establishment, tailored to their situation instead of some arbitrary limit for everyone.”

The Newnhams would love to open as soon as possible but would like to open all the areas of the hotel, while ensuring safety.

“This could be introduced immediately and still ensure people were kept safe. Of course we would welcome the distancing rules to be policed to ensure they are being adhered to by all establishments,” Lis said.

The Royal Hotel is probably the largest pub in town, so electricity costs are a lot to reopen this size of building.

“A limit of 10 is not practical for large establishments and barely helps smaller ones,” Lis said.

“With a limit of 10, the prices you would need to charge to cover costs would be expensive by big city standards, let alone country town prices.”

With the size of hotels drastically varying, a simplistic arbitrary number for all establishments is just lazy government according to the Newnhams. “The social distancing guidelines are not complicated and can easily be implemented for each establishment’s unique situation, to ensure people can remain safe while still being allowed to share a well-earned refreshment after a hard day’s work with a few friends,” Lis said.

“For centuries, pubs have provided a venue for people to relax with friends and get great value food. It is important for people’s wellbeing to socialise, which is why this forced isolation has had significant negative mental health issues.

“So apart from providing jobs for locals, it is vitally important for everyone’s sanity that social venues like pubs are allowed to reopen without arbitrary limits which make it impossible to cover costs.”

The Newnhams are proud of their “brilliant chef”, Sam Blockley whose food is “amazing and people miss his cooking as well as the chance to socialise”.

“The easing of restrictions needs to be made sensible so that pubs and restaurants can reopen using the social distancing guidelines, tailored to their unique situation, so everyone can remain safe and more importantly, so we can enjoy Sam’s food again,” Lis said.

Inundated with enquiries

The Royal Hotel has been inundated with enquiries. “As soon as the news’ reports said pubs and restaurants could open, I received message after message via The Royal Hotel’s Facebook page asking for bookings – one asking for five, one asking for the whole 10, a lot more just asking if we were opening,” she said.

“It felt like a real cry for help from people desperate to get out of isolation and socialise even with the distancing restrictions. I felt so sorry to tell them the limits imposed just made reopening impractical.

“I am so excited people are enthusiastic about getting back into the pub.  We can’t wait to welcome you back for what will be a very happy hour that will last all night when we can finally reopen with a more sensible limit.” 

As decided by the National Cabinet, numbers of patrons allowable can only increase beyond 10 from June 2 (up to 20) and July 3 (up to 100) but the actual effective dates are to be decided by the State Governments.