Opening the doors

Karen Redman has offered takeaway from her Lazy Lizard restaurant and welcomed the first 10 dine-in guests under the new COVID restrictions on Friday. Photo Kim Woods.

Hospitality business, pubs and clubs have been thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government but local business remain divided over the issue to open the doors just yet.

Hazard tape was removed from playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor gym equipment and barbecues across the shire on Friday.

However, the blinds were down on local pubs, clubs and some cafes with operators claiming the new regulations of 10 people made it unviable to open their dining rooms beyond takeaways.

Narrandera Exies, Golf Club and Bowling clubs remain closed while Barellan and District War Memorial Club is awaiting further advice  from Clubs NSW and the NSW Government regarding the new protocols before opening.

Charles Sturt, Murrumbidgee and Morundah hotels are closed to sit-down patrons while the exception was the Royal Hotel at Grong Grong, the subject of a crowd funding project with $4265 raised by the community so far.

To enable the public to keep up with the fast pace of regulatory changes, Narrandera Shire Council has instigated a social media site, Narrandera – Business as Usual, enabling retailers to post changes to their opening hours.

The main council offices in Narrandera were reopened in Monday, with the administration and community services building open from 9am-4.30pm (residents are asked to call ahead).

Narrandera Shire Council general manager George Cowan hopes the easing of the regulations will work without a significant increase number of infections.

“If we get to level 2 in a few weeks time, we should see more and more relaxation of the rules,” Mr Cowan said. “Council has its draft budget for 2021 on display – it contains a significant capital works program of 130 projects delivered across the shire.

“We will be doing everything we possibly can to stimulate the local economy.”

Mr Cowan urged residents to download the COVIDSafe app to enable the Federal Government to make decisions into the future. He said the COVID-19 lockdown really started to impact on council’s operations and the community in mid-March.

“We took the initiative to implement a business continuity plan, stopping councillors and staff travelling around the region and to the city,” he said. “We did that to make sure we would not be the vehicle for the virus into town.

“Then we split our work teams into smaller groups – some staff are working at home and are still doing that now.”

Mr Cowan said Council was forced to close the library, museum and arts centre, along with playgrounds, skatepark and barbecues in Marie Bashir Park.

“Out in the community it was much more serious where the hospitality industry, hotels, motels, cafes and many of the non-essential business closed,” he said. “The lifting of the restrictions is good news as it means the community here has been compliant, did everything asked of them.

“We only had one (coronavirus) case in Narrandera Shire throughout the whole of this pandemic and that is tremendous.

“Now we have a plan to move forward and Council will be opening some of its facilities.

“There is signage in our offices and in the park notifying people of the rules continuing to apply.

“There is a limit of 10 people per group at the outdoor facilities. In our office three to four people will be allowed in at any one time.”

Mr Cowan said Council recognised the impact of this virus had not been felt evenly across the shire.

“Some people have really been knocked by it financially.

“Council extended the hardship policy so it now applies to all businesses, residents and farms in the shire. The application process has been simplified.”

The Lazy Lizard restaunt and motel owner Karen Redman has welcomed the relaxation in restrictions after struggling with zero occupancy over the past seven weeks.

Her restaurant has been turning out takeaway lunch and dinner but opened the doors to the first 10 guests on Friday evening. Highly dependent on the travelling public, Karen has been using the downtime to renovate the motel room bathrooms and other maintenance.

“We have the JobKeeper allowance for several of the staff and we have been making jobs for them,” she said. “I will be waiting with open arms for the day the restrictions ease and people can come back to Narrandera.”

The restaurant caters for groups of 10 in different time slots with all diners asked to sign in if they do not have the COVIDSafe app. The menus are paper and there is no pepper or salt on the table.

“At least it’s a start and I hope people keep buying their takeaways too,” Karen said.

She said the prospect of having the major spring events, including the Golden Boot, Rockin’ on East and Good Old Days, cancelled would be disastrous.

“That business is not going to come back when the restrictions finish.

“Ninety per cent of the Rodders have booked for next year, we’ll see if the older ones are worried about travelling from interstate.”

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