The Australian Hotels Association has spent the last two months negotiating with governments and industry stakeholders to provide relief to pub operators throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Now its focus turns to how venues will have to adapt to a post-COVID environment.

The AHA has spent the last two months lobbying the federal and state governments, as well as industry stakeholders, in creating initiatives that would ease the strain on pub operators throughout the restricted trading environment of the pandemic shutdown. Its hard work has resulted in the implementation of the new hospitality award in negotiation with the United Workers Union, making it the fastest amendment of an industry award during the crisis. The AHA also pushed for wage subsidies, which eventuated into the JobKeeper payment, and pushed for superannuation funds to be made available to help stimulate the hospitality economy once venues could re-open.

“Key executive and staff members at the AHA have been working round the clock behind the scenes from the moment this crisis hit our industry,” stated AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson.

“Within 24 hours our own ‘national committee’ was formed, headed by AHA NSW and National President Scott Leach and made up of the CEOs from every state and territory along with key staff members from across Australia.

“This body met almost daily at the start of the crisis formulating a plan to move our industry forward together through this difficult time.

“On both a state and national level we have been working hard right from the start to ensure the voices of our 5000 members and 250,000 employees are heard.”

But with the tide beginning to turn in the crisis – including the news today that venues in the Northern Territory will be able to re-open shortly – the association is now focusing on what the on-premise environment will look like on the other side of the shutdown.

“What we’re proposing, especially as it relates to staff and patrons’ health and safety, are a set of measures that we think go towards mitigating risk, and we would anticipate governments endorsing this or setting out exactly what they require,” Ferguson told Australian Hotelier.

With pubs in each state likely to re-open at different stages and under different restrictions, the AHA is preparing training modules, like those unveiled in Western Australia yesterday, around hygiene and increased health and safety standards.

The AHA and its member are also now looking at venue features that will need to be adapted to reduce the amount of contact, and to reduce the chances of a second outbreak of the virus. These include:

  • Complimentary hands sanitiser at key points around venues
  • Sterilisation of bar and bistro tables and chairs after patrons leave
  • Constant cleaning of communal items like ATMs
  • No more sharing plates
  • No communal snack food
  • No more communal cutlery containers
  • Floor markings for bar service
  • Electronic payments where possible
  • Staff to be trained in proper hygiene methods
  • Floor markings and/or bollards to assist in orderly bar service.
  • Bistro tables to be repositioned to ensure minimum distance of 1.5 metres.
The CovidSafe app

The AHA has also endorsed the CovidSafe app released this week by the Federal Government which has been downloaded by more than two million Australians. Ferguson has appealed for more people to download the app to help hasten the return to trading.

“Our aim is to be able to serve people a cold beer as soon as we can. To do that, we think to give the Government the greatest comfort [in loosening restrictions], it’s obvious that we need to hit this forty per cent mark of people having downloaded the app.

“That’s the number one thing that people can do to help. So any hotelier who wants to open, any staff member who’s anxious to get back to employment, anyone who wants to have a cold beer, please help by downloading the app.”

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