COVID-19: Pubs and hotels struggling amid coronavirus restrictions

Ohhh, do you miss tap beer? Photo: Shutterstock
Ohhh, do you miss tap beer? Photo: Shutterstock

Forget the pub with no beer, for six long weeks there's been no pubs at all across most of the nation.

Quiet catch ups over a drink, celebrations and commiserations and the days of jostling for the best seat to watch the footy seem a long time ago.

With pubs and hotels closed by government direction amid the coronavirus pandemic, staff and hoteliers have been struggling.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it clear in his address to the nation on Friday that it will be several more weeks yet before they are able to fully open again.

While some are offering takeaway food or bottleshop service, others have closed their doors and stood down staff.

The Australian Hotels Association of NSW said 70,452 employees have been stood down from a total workforce of 75,000 people.

The Hotel Canobolas in the NSW Central West city of Orange has closed its doors. More than half its worksforce (29 of its 55 workers) are now on JobKeeper and the rest stood down until better times return.

TOUGH TIMES: The Hotel Canobolas licensee and owner Phil Tudor fears hotels will "never be the same again" following the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

TOUGH TIMES: The Hotel Canobolas licensee and owner Phil Tudor fears hotels will "never be the same again" following the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Licensee and owner Phil Tudor said it was impossible to have a large establishment like this "half open" for takeaways.

This very large hotel is home to multiple bars, a restaurant, extensive corporate and function areas, and accommodation - all of which are now closed.

However, the Hotel Canobolas Motel and Units down the road remain open.

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"My personal feeling is we'll never be the same again, even if it's just 10 schooners a week," Mr Tudor said.

Once restrictions on pubs and hotels are lifted, Mr Tudor said he expects there will be an initial rush because "everyone is screaming out for that social experience again".

Long-term, however, he expects the dine-in experience to suffer, as will accommodation bookings.

"I think corporate stuff will change, things like Zoom have had a big impact and I'm not sure it'll come back," Mr Tudor said.

In Dubbo, the doors to the South Dubbo Tavern are partially open amid the restrictions, with some staff who were originally stood down now back at work.

THANK YOU: South Dubbo Tavern owners Lee Green and Matt Rauchle say they are "making ends meet" thanks to tremendous support from the community. Photo: DANIEL SHIRKIE

THANK YOU: South Dubbo Tavern owners Lee Green and Matt Rauchle say they are "making ends meet" thanks to tremendous support from the community. Photo: DANIEL SHIRKIE

Co-owners Matt Rauchle and Lee Green said they decided from day one of the restrictions to serve meals via home delivery or pick up on site, as well as keep the bottle shop open.

Not knowing whether the idea would be a success or not, and fearing they may not be able to pay their staff, they made drastic cuts to staffing levels.

"We had 33 staff and we dropped that down to nine. We let all our casuals go and kept our full-time staff," Mr Rauchle said. "But now things are going so well we're back up to 15 staff."

While the Tavern is far from making a profit, Mr Rauchle said they are "making ends meet" thanks to tremendous support from the community.

"We're paying wages and paying the bills and that's the reason why we stayed open was to keep our guys in employment," he said.

We had 33 staff and we dropped that down to nine. We let all our casuals go and kept our full-time staff.

South Dubbo Tavern owner Matt Rauchle

For regulars at the Tavern, Mr Rauchle said it has been a tough six weeks.

"A lot of people who work hard and they come in for a bit of a social and then go home ... sometimes that half hour or hour when you come here is just a retreat and I think that's what people are missing," he said.

In Bathurst, the hugely popular PUBlic Choir is among the events to be impacted by the closure of pubs and hotels.

Pre-Covid times: Graham Sattler is the man behind the hugely-successful PUBlic Choir in Bathurst. Photo: Mitchell Conservatorium

Pre-Covid times: Graham Sattler is the man behind the hugely-successful PUBlic Choir in Bathurst. Photo: Mitchell Conservatorium

Started by the Mitchell Conservatorium two years ago, the regular event encourages music lovers to come along and lend their voice to a well-known song.

For each PUBlic Choir, which is run at The George Hotel, around 60-80 people flock in to be led by expert musicians in song.

While PUBlic Choir has now moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell Conservatorium executive director Graham Sattler many people are missing the social element of being out at the pub.

"It's absolutely critical, I think people are clamouring for ways to be social," he said. "We're talking about people's health and people's own four walls can be pretty isolating."

The next online PUBlic Choir is being held on Wednesday, May 20.

This story But when are pubs and clubs going to open? first appeared on The Canberra Times.