A TASTE OF NORMALITY: Diners return to the Killarney Hotel after lockdown restrictions lifted.
A TASTE OF NORMALITY: Diners return to the Killarney Hotel after lockdown restrictions lifted.

BOOKED OUT: Regional pubs enjoy post-COVID success

REGIONAL pubs are reaping the benefits of relaxed social distancing restrictions, as they reopen to booked out dine-in services.

While their larger competitors struggled to reconcile the 10 diner limit with staff expenses, small-town pubs could cover the cost with the help of JobKeeper payments.

As a result, residents are driving that little bit farther to enjoy a good pub feed, frequenting places such as the Killarney Hotel and the Yangan Hotel Motel.

Manager of the Killarney Hotel Amelia Johnston-Moir said the cautious reopening of their restaurant has been a major success.

"We have been fully booked out every single weekend," she said.

"It's been really good, it feels busy again."

Customers are seated in a modified eating room, with just three tables spaced "really far apart" and tape marking 1.5 metre spacing on the floor.

"(Customers) love it, they're stoked to have a schooner and a parmi again!" Miss Johnston-Moir said.

"The only part that's been a little bit sad is the amount of people coming in that we have to turn away.

"Because we're such a big hotel we feel like we could fit them in. We tell them, 'You can't sit down, but we really wish you could!'"

With just four full-time staff, all of whom managed to secure JobKeeper payments, Miss Johnston-Moir said it was worth it for them to give the 10-person service a crack.

"JobKeeper has really saved us," she said.

"We only started with Saturday and Sunday lunches because that's what we were taking phone calls for, but once we started booking up we were able to do two sittings.

"Now, I've also been able to bring in two casual workers."

The hotel is serving around 50 meals each weekend and looks forward to being able to welcome customers more as restrictions continue to lift.

Co-licensee of the Yangan Hotel Motel Kylie Friend said her venue has enjoyed similar success since the lockdown was partially lifted.

"It's been tough, but it's so good to be back and to see the smiles on their faces," she said.

"We are booked out most of the time, which has been a bit of a surprise!"

Mrs Friend and her husband Bob live on site, so they were able to trial the 10-person limit with little risk.

"We run it by ourselves, so it's not like the bigger pubs that have to employ staff and a chef," she said.

"That would be really hard."

Restrictions are set to ease slightly on Monday, to allow people to enjoy a drink without ordering a full meal, and Mrs Friend anticipates this will help the business immensely.

"At the moment people are only coming in at lunch and dinner, but with the easing of restrictions they can rock up throughout the day and have a beer, so long as they have a small snack as well," she said.

"Things will get better as it gets busier."

For further information or to make a reservation, please call the Yangan Hotel Motel on 4664 8190 or the Killarney Hotel on 4664 1313.