After news broke that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people in one premises would be banned effective immediately, pub operators – the most likely within hospitality to be affected by the ban – reacted swiftly to ensure that they were compliant, and that their businesses would adapt to the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.

As yesterday’s ban to limit large congregations was implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19, pub operators across Australia swung into action to both ensure the safety of staff and patrons, and to also protect their businesses in any way they could.

Craig Power, GM of The Pub Group in Tamworth, has been in contact with Australian Hotelier all week about how the group is preparing for the expected impact of the coronavirus, and said that operations and strategies have had to be fluid as changes have been implemented on a federal level so rapidly.

“[It] Changes by the hour — even our view, practices and increased attention has changed from what we discussed yesterday.”

With this kind of agility in mind, Max Fox-Andrews, GM of the Windsor Hotel in South Perth, implemented some major changes to the business swiftly yesterday, including, increasing the takeaway menu available via Uber Eats and pick-up, and implementing phone orders of takeaway alcohol, as well as free delivery within the local vicinity for orders over $100.

Fox-Andrews labelled the ban a positive move from the government, albeit one that should have happened some time ago. While her has implanted the necessary changes to the pub’s operations, he is preparing for more as necessary.

“For now, given the size of our venue, and its indoor/outdoor space we have the ability to still manage being open fairly effectively in certain areas, but it looks like the restaurant will have to close down because limiting numbers to less than 100 just doesn’t quite cut it for us.

“But we’re holding crisis meetings day by day, because the information available keeps changing so regularly. We just want to make sure we follow Government guidelines and make sure we do the right thing for the people. And if people want to come and have a good time, we’re open as usual until we’re told otherwise.”

At the Railway Hotel in Parkes, New South Wales, owner and operator Kasie Ferguson has begun heavily promoting their takeaway service, with a delivery service to be implemented from Friday. These and other initiatives are hoped to combat a drop in trade that is already being felt, as the hotel has already seen five functions have to cancel over the next four weeks due to the 100+ ban.

“We just hope that we don’t have to close and that the 100 doesn’t drop to 50,” states Ferguson.

At Sparkke at the Whitmore, owners Kari Allen and Rose Kentish immediately changed the model of their pub to an exclusively takeaway, online and delivery-only venue.

“From day one our commitment to the wellbeing of customers and staff has been a priority – this decision hasn’t been taken lightly,’ stated Allen.

“Our focus is to respond to the current Covid-19 risks in ways that keep our community well and also contributes to social cohesion. With the recent limitations on numbers announced today by the government (no more than 100 people at inside gatherings), and the emphasis on social distancing, which is very hard to enforce with quality table service, we felt it was the responsible thing to do. We must be agile and dynamic and work to keep everyone safe, healthy and employed; and so we pivot to this new offer with our characteristic passion for excellence. If you love Sparkke and the brewpub you can now take us home to enjoy.”

Fox-Andrews agrees that venues will need to be agile in order to survive the coming months and what that will mean for trade.

“I think in these moments of crisis, we’ve got to adapt to the situation. Hospitality is a constantly thriving, changing business, and if you don’t react and adapt with the times, you end up falling behind. So yes, it’s bad, but how certain businesses are reacting is very positive, because it means that we’re doing our job, which is to be hospitable and provide a service.”


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