Owner of Paolo's Pizza Bar in Torquay, Paolo Esposito, measures the 1.5m distance required for restaurant diners. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan
Owner of Paolo's Pizza Bar in Torquay, Paolo Esposito, measures the 1.5m distance required for restaurant diners. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan

Fear virus red tape will choke the life out of restuarants

RESTAURANT owners are being forced to act as government authorities and costs are exhorbitant under current coronavirus restrictions, Bay business owner Paolo Esposito says.

The Paolo's Pizza Bar namesake fears restaurant culture may never be the same, even as restrictions are scaled back for eateries.

"The Queensland Government Health Department Checklist has imposed a range of further bureaucracy onto our business," Mr Esposito said.

"If we decide to open for seating patrons, we are required to gather personal details of every diner and keep those records for 28 days.

"The problem is that we are required to act as a quasi-authority for the government."

Mr Esposito's comments come as Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington calls on the Premier to fast-track the lifting of restrictions in the Wide Bay health region.

He said he would be required to make sure patrons were from the same family before allowing them to sit closer than 1.5m apart.

These restrictions and requirements, the restauranteur said, placed an extra burden on a business already struggling to stay afloat.

While loyal customers had kept some money coming in through takeaway orders, he and his team were simply "doing the best we can".

He said government requirements had caused business costs to spiral.

"The additional paperwork required by government to access schemes like JobKeeper has been costly and burdensome," Mr Esposito said.

"The government checklist suggests that we install a Perspex screen and make other alterations at a significant cost."

Mr Esposito wants to see a full economic recovery sooner rather than later for the Fraser Coast but worries it still may not be enough.

"Without overseas visitors during the Whale Season, our income would still be halved," he said.

"In the future we may well have to rethink how we conduct our business model."

Mr Esposito said if restrictions stay in place, the restaurant would not be the same as before.

"It will lose its charismatic atmosphere. The dining experience should be relaxed and comfortable and be conducted without fear," he said.

Not everyone in the food industry shares Mr Esposito's outlook, however.

In Maryborough, co-owner of Nosh 2.0 Leesa Kinnane said she was looking forward to hosting diners for the first time.

Nosh 2.0 opened during the coronavirus crisis and has not ever been able to host diners, limited to selling takeaway meals.

Ms Kinnane said she was excited for a more social experience with patrons staying to enjoy their food.

She said she felt privileged as the business continued to receive the support of the Maryborough community.

The Premier's office has been contacted for comment.



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