Clubs plead with State Government to be allowed to open

Clubs and RSLs will put an urgent plan to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week insisting they be allowed to reopen or risk more than 40 per cent of clubs closing permanently.

By Alexandra Smith

First published at The Sydney Morning Herald – Monday 27 April 2020. See; https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/clubs-plea-to-premier-we-need-to-reopen-or-many-will-not-recover-20200426-p54na7.html

Clubs are pushing for restrictions to be relaxed, arguing they could safely reopen because they have the space to implement “extreme social distancing measures” in restaurants and gaming areas.

Anna Robinson smiles as she plays with “The Phantom” slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. They are a silent army, formed in ranks inside clubs and hotels around Australia, desperately battling slot machines in the hope of winning an elusive jackpot. Picture taken on November 23, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

As part of the plan, clubs will put an entry limit on patrons, restrict the number of people allowed to sit at dining tables, remove couches and bar stools and conduct temperature checks on entry.

A ClubsNSW briefing paper, obtained by the Herald, reveals that about 80 per cent of staff – or 35,808 people – have been stood down since the enforced shutdown announced on March 22.

The paper estimates that as many as 42 per cent of clubs across the state may never reopen, with many in regional NSW already struggling after the horror bushfire season.

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One club, Woy Woy Roosters, has been forced to close its doors permanently.

Clubs have accumulateively lost $212m in NSW in the last month

A spokesman for ClubsNSW said clubs had, on average, experienced an 87 per cent monthly revenue decline, “resulting in a collective $212 million monthly net loss”.

“The longer the shutdown continues, the more clubs that will close their doors permanently which would have a devastating impact on jobs, social interaction and the sense of togetherness which clubs bring,” the spokesman said.

“Thousands of charities and community groups will lose up to $93 million worth of ClubGRANTS funding this year alone and the state government will receive an estimated $200 million less per quarter in tax due to the current club shutdown.”

A spokesman for Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the government acknowledged “that clubs are experiencing significant hardship due to COVID-19, which is why we have introduced a range of measures to help them and other businesses get through this challenge.”

These include 12-month liquor licence fee waivers and deferral of gaming tax for six months.

ClubsNSW says the “typically large size of clubs” would allow them to implement “extreme social distancing measures” and sign-in requirements would keep track on who enters a club.

“This means if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, we will know who was in the venue at the same time to ensure they can be tested as a precaution,” the spokesman said.

Opposition treasurer Walt Secord said he urged the Berejiklian government to support the NSW club movement with a support package to ensure their survival.

“The local club is a central part of the Australian identity and unique to our nation. Clubs are a deep part of our nation’s social fabric. We do not want to see clubs and their workers wiped out,” he said.

“After the COVID-19 and when it is safe to do so, thousands of Australians will return to their local club for entertainment, a refreshing schooner and a chicken schnitzel.”

Mr Secord said Labor recognised that the local club was often the largest single employer in a regional community.

Mr Secord said any relaxation of rules must have the full endorsement of the chief health officer and “must be based on sound medical advice”. “We do not want a second wave of infections,” he said.

Clubs NSW said there reopening plan would “be vetted by an eminent infectious diseases expert.”

First published at The Sydney Morning Herald – Monday 27 April 2020. See; https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/clubs-plea-to-premier-we-need-to-reopen-or-many-will-not-recover-20200426-p54na7.html

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