South Australian pubs are feeling the COVID-19 pinch. Picture: Matt Loxton
South Australian pubs are feeling the COVID-19 pinch. Picture: Matt Loxton

SA pub showdown: hotels want bigger footy crowds

SOUTH Australian pubs have called for an instant increase to capacity ahead of Saturday's AFL Showdown, with  the State Government poised today to set out its road map for Stage 3 easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Australian Hotels Association SA chief executive Ian Horne said hoteliers wanted to increase capacity from 20 to 100 people a room, while enforcing 1.5m social distancing measures.

He said the move would recognise SA's hard work in suppressing COVID-19.

"In recognising South Australia has done so very, very well in suppressing the virus, the State Government must look at a generous number of 100 ahead of the Showdown,'' Mr Horne said.

Ian Horne, CEO/General Manager at Australian Hotels Association. Picture: Supplied
Ian Horne, CEO/General Manager at Australian Hotels Association. Picture: Supplied


"We have talked about 50 in the past, but other states have gone way past that and even a compromise position would be 80 people per very large room - not 20."

Premier Steven Marshall told The Advertiser a Stage 3 State Government announcement would be made today with regards to large venues.

National Cabinet will also discuss limits for indoor gatherings when it meets today for the first time in two weeks.

The hospitality sector has called for a range of options, including a one person per 2sq m rule, however the limit is expected to be based on the venue's size.

Mr Horne said the current Stage 2 restrictions in SA were not only restrictive to publicans, but also to customers who left disappointed if not able to secure a table.

"There is a growing frustration from hotel customers who come into a very, very large room and are told they can't sit up to 20m away or more from other patrons because there are already the limit of 20 people in the room," he said.

Mr Horne said any of today's announcements would be discussed via a video hook-up with its members to advise if they could accommodate more Showdown XLVIII revellers.

He said all member venues were booked out under the 20-person room limit, but easing of restrictions would allow thousands of fans locked out of Adelaide Oval for the Port Adelaide home game to enjoy the football in a safe licensed setting.

"I really hope we aren't disappointed after the meeting,'' Mr Horne said.

He noted the SA hotel industry was currently operating under more onerous rules than Western Australia, which has a 100-person limit.

Meek Group owner John Meek confirmed they could easily accommodate a 100-person limit, per room, while adhering to the 1.5m social distancing guideline.

The company operates the Black Bull, Downtown on Hindley, Woolshed on Hindley, and the Ambassador's Hotel.

"We have a room in Downtown that holds 1200 people at capacity and … currently we are only allowed to have 20 people in it and that does not make sense,'' he said.

"We could have many more than 100 people in that room and have way more than 1.5m between them.

"There are a lot of rules which have been made by a doctor and a policeman which really are quite silly and, my God, we need to eliminate them.''

Meanwhile, the State Government has allowed 75 licensed venues across SA to expand their footprint to make the most of restrictions that limited the size of public gatherings.

Of those approved, 40 applications were from venues in regional SA.

"Pubs, hotels and licensed venues in regional areas are an integral part of the local community - not only do they serve as a place for locals to socialise, they're also a major drawcard for tourists," Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said.

"And while border restrictions are in place, these measures can help venues take advantage of intrastate tourism during this difficult time."

- with Claire Bickers, Daniel Wills