The Australian Hotels Association has reacted to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision late on Sunday night to close pubs across the country from 12pm today for an indefinite period, in an effort to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus in Australia.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson noted that it was an incredibly sad day for the sector, being the first time in Australia’s peace-time history that pubs have had to shut en masse, but that the health of Australians is the main priority.

“The health and well-being of our staff and patrons is paramount to all other considerations. In times like this, it is essential for us all to follow the instructions of our Governments and medical officers.

“But there’s no doubt this move is already having a devastating impact on our direct national workforce of 250,000 and our millions of patrons.”

“We saw what an important role hotels play in their communities during the recent bushfires across large parts of the nation – today’s closure is an unprecedented move which will have a big social impact for months to come.

Ferguson noted the impact that this shutdown would have on hoteliers, their staff and families all over the country, and particularly on small venue operators.

“Our hoteliers, their families and staff are obviously devastated – we are doing all we can for them.

“Obviously this closure comes at a huge financial cost – many on-going bills will still need to be paid by mum-and-dad operators while the pub is not able to trade and have any income.”

Takeaway options

John Green, director of liquor and policing at AHA NSW, said that while they have been talking to distraught publicans all weekend, the one silver lining is that takeaway and delivery options are still available to most operators. Green also praised the quick reaction of many operators to pivot to a takeaway/delivery model.

“The announcement by the Prime Minister clearly sets out that whilst the life of the on-premise portion of hotels, restaurants and clubs will be shut, they still have the ability to sell takeaway through their bottle-shops. Many hotels have already been moving to home delivery so will see many of our hotels serving takeaways from their bottleshops or doing home deliveries of both food and alcohol throughout this period.”

Green said that there are still some issues that need clarifying from Government bodies, and that the AHA is in constant contact with those parties. The association will relay accurate information to members on a regular basis.

AHA WA CEO Bradley Woods said that he is also seeking “urgent clarification” from the State Government and relevant authorities on the terms for takeaway food and alcohol sales so as that operators could comply in a responsible manner and allow for some cash flow to remain within these businesses.

“There will be volume restrictions on alcohol. This is to ensure staff safety and avoid the panic buying that we sadly saw with respect to toilet paper and other essential items. We are working cooperatively with state regulators to determine what these restrictions will be.

“Our industry is at the coalface of the restrictions that come into effect at midday so it is critical that venues can maintain takeaway trade under these new restrictions so as to minimise job losses and cater to the needs of the community.”

On the national scale, Ferguson continues to liaise with governments to ensure the best outcomes for hotel operators, their staff and the community at large.

“Hotels are resilient, however, and we will continue to work with all Governments and the broader community to get through this crisis together.

“I can’t wait for the day I see the face of a smiling staff member behind the counter once again.”

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