‘Like my family’: Sydney pubs ready to welcome staff and punters again | Sydney

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Coming “home” is what Kazuko Nelson says she looks forward to the most when the pubs reopen on Monday, after being closed due to the lockdown since June.

Nelson started running the Hero of Waterloo pub at The Rocks in Sydney 28 years ago with her husband, Ian, and says his pub staff are ‘like my family’.

After Ian died 10 years ago, she said, “that’s all I have left in this country.”

The pub will reopen on October 11 as part of the NSW government’s Covid roadmap for recovery, welcoming back regulars who love its rich, century-old history.

“I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to reopen the doors and be part of [our customers’] celebrations, ”she said.

The reopening of the centenary Hero of Waterloo pub in The Rocks is eagerly awaited by its regulars. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian
woman stands in the shadows with sunlight shining through a window
Kazuko Nelson, who has run Hero of Waterloo for 28 years, says his staff are like family. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

Pub regular Arthur Carney has frequented the Hero for 30 years.

He’s counting the days until opening night and doesn’t worry about social distancing rules ruining the “cozy vibe” of his favorite drinking spot.

“I see a lot of people who must be feeling very lonely [during the lockdown] without being able to go to places like the Hero. It’s a very social place, ”says Carney.

A picture frame hangs on a sandstone wall
A picture of Ivan Nelson hangs on the back wall of the Hero of Waterloo above the fireplace. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

As part of the reopening measures, all businesses are required to have Covid security plans, including one customer per 4m² and mandatory seated consumption.

But the measurements don’t bother Carney. “I think it’s gonna be the same again, that’s what’s good [the pub], it’s constant, ”he says.

John Palmer, who has frequented the pub for 20 years, says he can’t wait to return to his “second home.”

Originally from the UK, he and dozens of expats have been celebrating St. George’s in the pub for 20 years and they all “love it”.

“It’s exactly the same since I walked through the door and it gives such a feeling of comfort and security.”

Like Nelson, many business owners across town worried about when they might reopen.

Gray-haired man sits in front of the sandstone wall
Hero of Waterloo regular Arthur Carney says he’s counting the days until the pub reopens. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

York Lane bar owner Dieter Steinbusch finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

He says his regulars are so desperate to get back to their favorite drinking spot that they’re ready to “lick the pub’s doorknobs” when it reopens.

Its European-style bar, neatly tucked between Sydney’s hidden lanes, might be easy to miss, but its regulars know exactly how to find it.

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“We’re like their second home and they’re like my second family,” says Steinbusch.

It has already been inundated with phone calls from customers trying to reserve a seat at the 30-seat bar.

“I’ve had clients call me before and ask if I’ll be open Monday night because they want to come in and we’re their first choice.

Man stands in a dark bar with his hands on a bench
When Dieter Steinbusch’s York Lane bar finally reopens, it will welcome its customers with a special “Latins in the Laneway” event. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian
Dieter and his DK boss discuss stock orders for opening
Steinbusch and his head DK discuss stock orders for the reopening. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

This week he is hosting “Latins in the Laneway” especially for his customers, many of whom are motorcycle enthusiasts.

At night, he says those who have been stuck in local government areas in strict closures can “let off steam” and have a few beers and enjoy “nice bikes.”

“[The bikes] are works of art, ”he says.

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During confinement, he remained in contact with regulars who supported him throughout the trip.

“Hard work and good service pays off and it took the blockages to make me realize that people appreciate what you do, and it makes you work even harder. “

Dieter Steinbusch makes a signature tonic espresso
Dieter Steinbusch makes a signature tonic espresso. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins / The Guardian

He also says he revisited his youth, having taken over the kneeboard when the bar had limited opening hours.

“I caught up on the kneeboard with an old friend from school, and we relived that memory.”

One of his very good clients had given him a knee brace during the last lockdown to thank him for providing a positive space for his staff.

“[The gift] was to say thank you for inspiring him and his [team], and be positive, ”says Steinbusch.

It is the support of the community around him and his people that he believes will keep its doors open for years to come.

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