'We're at a knife's edge': Moree pubs urge patrons to do the right thing, ahead of new rules

Moree publicans are urging all patrons to do the right thing and abide by NSW Health regulations, or risk pubs having to close their doors again.

The calls come as new rules are set to come into place for all pubs in NSW from midnight on Thursday.

From Friday, July 17, pubs will no longer be able to take bookings of 20 - instead, a new limit of 10 will be implemented, along with a cap of 300 customers per venue.

As a result, Moree's Royal Hotel has had to cancel a number of functions they'd had booked in with more than 10 people.

"It's mostly been a lot of business meetings and lunches," manager Maddie Evans said.

Although the new rules will have an impact on The Royal, Ms Evans believes they're necessary to avoid being shut down again.

"We've already been shut down for over 70 days, so we don't want to go back to that circumstance again," she said.

"It's lovely that we could ease restrictions on July 1, but maybe it was too much too soon. I think people got a little too comfortable."


Ms Evans said their biggest hurdle at the moment is patron awareness and making sure every single person who enters the pub does the right thing by registering and sanitising their hands before they do anything else.

"NSW Health department is working with the AHA [Australian Hotels Association] really well, the AHA is working with hotels really well. Now we need to get patrons to work with pubs," she said.

"As soon as you walk in the doors, go straight to the bar, sanitise your hands and sign in. And if you're unwell, stay home.

"We can do everything right, but if just one person comes in when they're feeling unwell and hugs a group of friends, it could easily spread.

"It's about making sure people realise the seriousness of it. We are at a knife's edge. If these restrictions don't see a change in the number of cases, we could be shut down again."

Ms Evans said one of the biggest changes they're implementing is the digitisation of their sign-in records.

"It's got to be digitised at the end of every night," she said.

"That way, if we get a phone call from NSW Health, we can send it straight away. That means every person needs to sign in and the time they get in is so important."

While the new group booking limits won't have a significant impact on The Vic Hotel, since their restaurant has only just reopened and they haven't had many large bookings, manager Zac Hatton said the pub has lost a significant amount of patronage as a result of COVID-19.

"Since COVID started, we haven't been able to do any entertainment, so we can't have our regular karaoke or pool comps," he said.

"They would bring in a few hundred people.

"We're probably losing between $4000 to $6000 a week just over the bar.

"It's terrible."

The same goes for Moree's Post Office Hotel.

PO Hotel owner Gina Benson said while the new limits aren't a "big deal" for them, their biggest problem is not being able to have any entertainment.

"[COVID] has had an impact on us since they shut the pubs down," she said.

"But we've just got to go with it.

"At least we're open. We're fully operational with poker machines and food and the bar. I don't think these new restrictions will be a big deal."