On Monday March 23, the NSW government announced it will amend the licensing laws around the sale of alcohol, allowing the state’s bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs to sell alcohol to takeaway or deliver to customer’s homes.

The move follows restrictions put in place yesterday shutting down all “non-essential” businesses and services across the country from noon, as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. While the government couldn’t predict how long the restrictions will be in place, venues are looking at up to six months of closures.

In a statement Liquor & Gaming NSW said it recognises “the COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional set of circumstances and will have significant impacts on the businesses we regulate. Liquor & Gaming NSW appreciates that exceptional circumstances require flexibility on the part of the regulator.”

The statement continues, ”Not all licensed premises are authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premise. In these circumstances, Liquor & Gaming NSW will take a commonsense and pragmatic approach to enforcing the liquor and gaming laws. In particular, it is recognised that the risk profile of certain venues has changed and measures put in place to manage these risks are, in the current environment, largely redundant.”

The regulator will continue to enforce only “the most serious” offences under the compliance regime, principally the sale of liquor to minors or intoxicated persons.

Pasan Wijesena, co-owner of Enmore’s Jacoby’s Tiki Bar and Newtown’s Earl’s Juke Joint, as well as the vice president of the Independent Bars Association of NSW told Broadsheet he was excited by the move. “It's great, it means bars can sell their whole range, for example wine, beer and more. Not that we compete with bottle shops, but I think lots of regulars and locals would love to support their favourite bars.”

Wijesena says while he's not sure if this will save him and other Sydney venues, it has the potential to keep at least a few people in work, as well as keeping the business brands alive. He had to stand down every member of his staff, but is hoping this could at least provide a bit of income for some of them. "We've never done this before; I guess we don't know [if it will be successful and keep venues alive]. My plan is to have staff batching cocktails in the venue for us to sell and then they can deliver them. This, in addition to relief around commercial rents and yes, it might work."

Covid-19 (coronavirus) means we’re living in unprecedented and uncertain times. Mass public gatherings are banned and minimal social contact is recommended. If you have concerns about visiting businesses or public spaces, or questions about self-isolation or coronavirus testing, check out the latest updates from NSW Health.