Aussies became the envy of many around the world on Friday, when pubs in New South Wales and the Northern Territory flung open their doors for the first time in weeks.
The Northern Territory, which has recorded just 30 cases of coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, has now entered stage two of its lockdown exit plan, allowing restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen.
Thirsty customers could be seen waiting outside Darwin pubs on Friday morning, keen to be among the first to enjoy a pint and parmi.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner even poured himself a cold one when the clock struck 12 at The Cavenagh Hotel, declaring the day “the start of the Territory’s comeback”.
“I think I’ve earned one and I think a lot of Territorians out there have earned a beer as well,” he said.
In New South Wales, restaurants and cafes are now allowed to have up to 10 patrons as long as people maintain social distancing.
Cafes, including Speedos Cafe at Bondi Beach and Portobello Caffe at Circular Quay, were open bright and early for those craving a barista-made coffee.
“Today I actually sat down for a coffee,” one happy Instagrammer wrote.
The celebrations then kicked on as restaurants opened across Sydney and friends gathered to enjoy beers, wines, pizzas and burgers.
Eilidh McGuire, the manager of BL Burgers in Newtown, said customers were in the store “from the second we opened”.
“It hasn’t been too difficult to manage so far. I think the rain has slightly held it off, but we’ve had people coming saying can we sit with four … that’s the bit we have to be extra careful, not having people sit too close together,” she said.
At The Rio bar in Summer Hill, operational manager Fabrizio Culici said pouring the first beer into a glass pint had felt “phenomenal”.
“We just hope that it keeps going, hope that this is certainly not going to be a short-lived thing and we go back to deliveries, because it’s going to be very hard to survive if that happens,” he said.
Some of the capital’s most popular venues have also started taking bookings, which Sydneysiders have rushed to snap up.
Thousands of people are already on the waitlist for Bondi’s The Corner House Hotel, which was booked out on Friday for $1000 by a group of Irish mates celebrating their new-found freedom.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned people to be “extra careful” as COVID-19 case numbers inevitably rise over the next few weeks.
“There will be many more people out and about, and many more people out and about for recreation as opposed to other reasons,” she said on Friday.
“That is a big shift in the way we’re managing the pandemic, a big shift in the way in which people can have that extra bit of freedom.”
“Please be extra careful … maintain good hand hygiene, practise social distancing and if you’re unwell, get tested and stay home,” she added on Twitter.
DUMMIES AND CARDBOARD CUTOUTS
Overseas, restaurants also have also begun to reopen in Austria and Germany.
“After preparing every meal myself for 12 weeks, I’m delighted that now someone else can do it for me,” 44-year-old Jenny Baese said as she ordered a curry for herself and her two-year-old son at a Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin on Friday.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m really grateful for this moment,” she added.
In Vienna, drizzly spring weather didn’t stop 19-year-old students Fanny and Sophie from enjoying breakfast at Cafe Goldegg.
“It was quite hard for us that the cafe was closed! We missed it and so we will be coming often I think,” said Sophie, sadly admitting that it no longer had the same “cosy atmosphere” as before.
It’s a problem many restaurants are facing as they experiment with new ways to serve diners while maintaining social distancing.
In the United States, a three-Michelin-star restaurant has staged a bunch of mannequins around the restaurant, hoping to make the room feel fuller.
But the dummies at The Inn at Little Washington also serve a practical purpose.
“When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant’s occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious – fill it with interestingly dressed dummies,” chef Patrick O’Connell said.
“This would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo opps”.
“We’re all craving to gather and see other people right now. They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.”
Life-size cardboard cutouts of diners have also been spotted at Five Dock Dining, a restaurant in New South Wales.
Owner Frank Angeletta told Seven News he even had a playlist of ambient restaurant music, featuring a crowd and “heavy dishes”.
“They’re a talkative bunch,” he said with a laugh.
In Amsterdam, one restaurant is testing a series of romantic-looking “COVID-secure” greenhouses, inside which small groups of people can dine together while enjoying views of the canals.
“If you would like to go out and you can go out, I think these are very nice alternatives,” one diner said.
– With wires