How Qlders enjoyed their first day of freedom
QUEENSLANDERS are lapping up their first weekend of coronavirus restriction freedom, flocking to reopened restaurants, sweating it out at bootcamps and packing parks, beaches and markets.
But it was a cautious return from hibernation for the hard-hit hospitality industry, with many restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs opting not to open - and those that did strictly enforcing 10 patron limits as police and Liquor Licensing inspectors kept watch.
The first phase of eased COVID-19 restrictions since the draconian lockdown was imposed almost two months ago saw thousands of Queenslanders out and about revelling in semi-freedom.
In some areas, it looked like many had forgotten about the pandemic which effectively shut down the state, the country and the world.
At Brisbane's Jan Power Markets, hundreds of people swarmed stalls in scenes similar to those which were condemned several weeks ago when crowds flouted public gathering and social distancing rules.
Police moved people on at Burleigh Heads and Rainbow Bay as large crowds gathered to watch surfers taking on booming swells.
Crowds lined up to get a table at cafes and restaurants which were allowed sit-down diners for the first time since March.
Brisbane's South Bank - where parklands reopened along with those on the Gold Coast and in Cairns and Airlie Beach - was packed with diners, with police out in force cracking down on social distancing rules.
The Gold Coast casino's rooftop restaurant, Nineteen at the Star, staged an exclusive midnight dinner to welcome the start of eased restrictions.
Invited guests included Mayor Tom Tate, who encouraged Aussies to 'forget about going overseas' and come to the Coast to 'let us entertain you'.
Coast couple Carla Tooma and Jake Langdon were among the first to dine at Nineteen yesterday and said they were happy to be able to dress up and get out of the house.
"It felt very strange getting ready to go out and have lunch somewhere nice - it's definitely something we've missed," Ms Tooma said.
Nineteen executive chef Uday Husa said it was 'really exciting' to welcome diners back to the venue, whose staff were among thousands stood down at Star's Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney casinos.
"It's wonderful for our guests and staff to be taking the first steps on the path to recovery," he said.
The restaurant's 90-minute, $150-a-head dinner and lunch sittings had sold out 'immediately', Mr Husa said.
In Broadbeach Mall, Brisbane couple Paulo Ventura and Carolina Carli enjoyed their first sit-down cafe meal in weeks, at Madison's Cafe.
"We just moved up from Melbourne and only finished quarantine two days ago so it's great to be able to go out and celebrate with a meal," Mr Ventura said.
Cafe owner Lincoln Testa said: "Ten seats isn't much but it's a start - it's certainly better than no seats."
Mr Testa, who has had Madison's for 23 years, said his trade had plummeted by 75 per cent during the pandemic and would only bounce back once tourists started returning to the Coast.
Surf clubs on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, along with most other licensed clubs across the state, did not reopen despite the eased restrictions.
Clubs Queensland president Terry McDonald said it was impossible for most clubs to 'make a quid' with only 10 diners allowed.
"A few of the smaller footy and bowls clubs and those with cafes attached might be able to make it work but it's just not viable for the rest," he said.
"We're really looking forward to July when we can have up to 100 patrons."
Outbacks towns are allowed to open their cafe and restaurant doors to up 20 people from this weekend, with the iconic Birdsville Hotel organising a slap-up roast night for locals and essential travellers last night.
Pub boss Ben Fullagar said he was excited the famous watering hole was reopening to diners as it "feels like it's been forever".
"Tonight we're doing a big roast night, we've got our 20 people booked in and have the tables spread out," he said.
The reopening will sadly do Birdsville's only cop, Senior Constable Stephan Pursell, out of his second 'job' as the pub's takeaway pizza 'blue light' delivery driver during the pandemic.
With North Stradbroke, Fraser and Moreton islands reopened to day-trippers yesterday, the Stradbroke Ferry was doing a roaring trade as hundreds of day trippers hit the island.
"It's one of our favourite places to go, it's nice to be out in the fresh air," Straddie visitor Madeline Bird, from Brisbane, said.
"We just spent the day on the beach and we haven't moved. We couldn't wait to come back over here and we're just so happy we can."
Boot camps kicked back into gear in earnest at exercise hot spots including New Farm Park and Currumbin Alley on the Gold Coast.
"It's awesome to be back together again feeding off each other's energy," fitness trainer Chris Tuck said after putting six boot camp participants through their paces at New Farm.
Families also flocked to parks like New Farm to let children clamber on playgrounds that had also been closed to control the spread of the COVID-19.
"She is loving it," mother-of-two Jo Williams said as she pushed her four-year- old daughter Hannah on a swing in the same park.
"Both the kids have missed the outdoor activity and interacting with children."
Originally published as How QLDers enjoyed their first day of freedom