As restaurants across most of New South Wales gear up to reopen in mid-October, a number of high-profile venues have been attacked for announcing they will open to vaccinated guests only.

Sydney’s Aria was one of the first to confirm its vaccine policy in a post on Instagram, resulting in immense support from the hospitality community but a mixed bag of reactions from some members of the public.

“As per the NSW Government advice, only fully vaccinated guests will be allowed to enter our venue and all staff will be wearing masks and check-in processes will be in place,” reads the post.

While many comments were supportive of the policy, the restaurant’s account has been flooded with angry words, with comments ranging from “say goodbye to your business if you’re going to play a part in segregating society” to “you closed the place down before you could open it again … good luck”.

Neil Perry will open the doors to Margaret in Double Bay for the first time in the coming weeks, with the chef also announcing it will only serve vaccinated patrons.

“We will open up bookings @margaretdoublebay next week for a time when we can open to Vaccinated people, which is a health order so if you are a troll or anti vaxxer don’t bother commenting, it’s the law”, wrote the chef.

The post also attracted significant attention from those against mandatory vaccines, with comments calling on people to “boycott” the restaurant and accusations of “segregation” and “medical discrimination” alongside “it’s not the law”.

While there is no current vaccine mandate concerning the hospitality industry, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government had not finalised its plans and that unvaccinated people should “not assume” they will have the same freedoms as those who are vaccinated.

“Don’t assume that unvaccinated people are going to have all those freedoms. I want to make that point very clear,” said the Premier, after Deputy Premier John Barilaro made comments that businesses would only have to turn away unvaccinated customers for “three to four weeks” after reopening.

“For those of you who choose not to be vaccinated, that’s your choice, but don’t expect to do everything that vaccinated people do even when we hit 80 per cent,” said Premier Berejiklian.

The comments come as employers are looking for clarification regarding their duties as employers and the rules on reopening to the public.

Under current WHS laws, employers have a duty to eliminate or minimise as far as is reasonably practicable the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

However Safe Work Australia’s website states: “it is unlikely that a requirement for workers to be vaccinated will be reasonably practicable”.

“You must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise this risk and vaccination should be considered as one way to do so in the context of a range of COVID-19 control measures“.

A recent survey conducted by the Restaurant & Catering Association found 63 per cent of pub, restaurant and cafe owners supported compulsory vaccinations.

The statistic aligns with the launch of the Put a Jab on the Menu campaign fronted by Guillaume Brahimi, which calls for customers and hospitality workers to get the vaccine.

“Vaccination is the only way to save our industry and open it up again, without restrictions,” said the chef. “If we don’t get it done, we’re going to lose some amazing businesses.” 

There has also been talk about the launch of a New South Wales vaccine passport in October, which will allow double-dosed customers freedoms in the community.

Currently, a COVID-19 certificate is available through MyGov or the Express Plus Medicare app.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also announced the state will pilot a passport in regional Victoria, which will only allow fully vaccinated people to participate in events and access facilities and services.

Image credit: The Mandarin