For several days many across the hospitality industry have been preparing for the Government to shut them down, following similar moves by authorities in Italy, Spain and the United States, writes Australian Hotelier Editor, Vanessa Cavasinni and TheShout Editor, Andy Young.

This morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the latest round of measures from the Federal Government aimed at slowly and ultimately halting the spread of COVID-19. While he stopped short of closing all hospitality venues, the news that indoor gatherings of 100 people or more are now banned, is still very confronting news for venues, operators and in particular the casual staff they all employ.

TheShout has spoken to people across the industry for reaction to the news and found many venues were already reducing capacity, increasing social distancing through taking out tables and also implementing increased hygiene procedures to help slow the spread of the disease.

The Australian Hotels Association said it will continue to work closely with Federal and State Governments following the imposition of a 100 person limit on all venues.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson said the new restrictions will have a huge social impact, however, the Association was still urgently seeking clarification on the exact details as to how the change will work.

“Obviously we will be following the instructions of the Government and medical experts to the letter – the number one priority is saving lives and stopping people becoming ill,” he said.

“But there’s no doubt this ban on more than 100 people gathering in venues will have a devastating impact on our workforce of more than 250,000 and will also impact our millions of patrons across Australia.

“We saw what an important role hotels play in their communities during the recent bushfires across large parts of the nation – this new development is an unprecedented move which will have a big social impact for some time.

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

“Pubs are a vital part of society and will be key component in Australia’s employment and social recovery once we get through this difficult time.”

While this is the start of a potentially painful time for many venues and operators, the underlying feeling is that we all have to do everything we can, to help the country get through this crisis.

Chris Cheung, MD of C!NC, told Australian Hotelier: “It’s devastating, but this is bigger than our industry itself. We’re talking about deaths here, so I think it’s extreme measures for an extreme time.

“It’s quite scary and surreal, but I do believe the outcome is tough times ahead for not only the industry, but for all of us. We’re all in the same boat in this instance.”

Ben Carroll, Co-Founder of Applejack Hospitality, told TheShout that the group has been preparing for a couple of weeks, having seen what is happening with coronavirus around the world.

“We have been reducing tables and increasing space in our venues for a week or so now. We’ve also hugely increased our hygiene practices to help keep staff and customers safe and we’re going cashless in all our venues

“We can’t just say to everyone, ‘yeah keep going out’ but the fact is that venues are safe places to go. They are safer that big supermarkets, they are safer than public transport and even if you can’t go to a venue there are things people can do to help.

“They can buy gift vouchers and if they want to get food, get in touch with their local venue directly don’t use the delivery services because they sting the venues and we need the revenue now and we want to try and keep as many people employed as we can.”

Carroll said that Applejack has been “preparing for the worst, while hoping it doesn’t get that bad” and urged everyone in hospitality to do the same.

“Speak to your landlords, speak to your banks, prepare them for what could be ahead. We’re all going to need help here and we all want to come out the other side as strongly as possible.”

Social distancing and social responsibility are two keys phrases that everyone needs to bear in mind through the pandemic and they are guiding many operators.

Zara Madrusan, Co-Founder of Made in the Shade group, which owns three bars in Melbourne, told Bars and Clubs: “[This is] where we have a huge social responsibility to make sure that our team are safe and that we are practising extra high standards of hygiene and all that kind of thing.”

She added: “Second to that, this week we are rolling out a change to the layout of the bar so that there is more spacing between tables to help put people’s minds at ease, take more responsibility and help with social distancing.”

And the message to the public? “Come out, come out, but let’s make it as safe as possible. Come out if you’re healthy and you’re feeling well. This is not about us, yes we are having a tough time, but everyone’s having a tough time.”

Meanwhile Michael Madrusan said: “Let’s band together, work as a team and tackle this head on.”

Craig Power, GM of The Pub Group Tamworth, offered some business advice to fellow operators: “COVID-19 is not prejudiced, it does not discriminate. All industries will be affected or infected in some way. Will we see some downturns? Yes we already are but every business will.

“Business 101: When trade is down you cut your costs to manage the affect by limiting the spending.

“The government and financial institutions will have to provide industries with some type of compassion and assistance to get through.

“A the end of most downturns follows a usual increase” so let’s get through this together and work towards the good times to come.”

TheShout, Australian Hotelier, Bars and Clubs and National Liquor News will continue to work with the industry to bring you updates, news and advice regarding the impact of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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