As the nation begins winding back COVID-19 restrictions, hospitality venues are slowly reopening across the country and preparing for post pandemic life. From cellar door tastings to tasting menus, here’s a state-by-state breakdown of what wine fans can expect.
Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines in Margaret River has a good feeling about opening her Margaret River cellar door today.
Part of that good feeling is because Saturday June 6 is when Western Australia enters phase three of its COVID-19 restriction wind backs. Part of that good feeling is because all of today’s cellar door tastings are fully booked. (Asking guests to book in for tastings was something the winery introduced three weeks ago as part of WA’s second phase of wind backs.) And the final part of that good feeling is because Cullen is confident today’s visitors are going to get the best tasting experience possible.
“The cellar door and restaurant at Cullen were two separate operations but they were in the same space,” says Cullen. “For an operation the size of ours, that used to be an issue. But now that people have to book for tastings, it makes it easier to manage staff and means we can really take the time to tell people the story of our wines. It’s a better experience for guests and it’s better for us.”
Cullen’s experience is one of many being played out at cellar doors, restaurants and bars around the country as Australia’s hospitality industry continues its post-COVID-19 recovery. While we know engaged Young Gun of Wine readers are eager to support these venues – which is great! – it’s worth keeping some things in mind before making plans.
Since venues will be operating with reduced capacities, reservations are pretty much essential, especially during primetime. Don’t expect to be able to casually drop in to your favourite wine bar or winery like you might have prior to COVID-19. But if you are planning on trying your luck with a walk-up booking, you should probably count on having to line up, especially on weekends.
As you’ve likely heard, venues can only serve alcohol to guests that are seated so standing at the bar or tasting counter is a no-go. Be prepared for set seating times and eating and drinking on the clock. Venues need to manage guest numbers and make the most of their limited capacities. Don’t be surprised to find smaller menus and more places running with set-menu offerings, too. Guaranteed spend-per-head is, more than ever, crucial to getting hospitality in Australia back on its feet.
Yes, these measures – as well as complying with existing social distance rules – might be inconvenient and will take time to get used to, but they’re necessary from both health and economic perspectives. We had a taste of what it was like not to go out for two months and it wasn’t pretty. Does anyone want to go through that again? Let’s all be safe, smart and supportive.
In Western Australia, venues can serve up to 100 guests. Like all other states, this capacity is calculated according to the venue’s size. Larger venues with multiple spaces can hold up to 300 guests.
In South Australia, venues can serve up to 80 visitors.
In New South Wales, up to 50 people are allowed in a venue.
Over in Tasmania, the capacity for venues is 40 guests.
In Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, venues can serve up to 20 guests.
The Northern Territory has no limits on venue capacities, although guests are required to observe social distancing practices.