The Federal Government has banned all licensed venues from opening their doors to the public as it aims to slow the spread of Coronavirus across the country.
When you look at the devastating toll government inaction has had in Italy, while the move is hard to take, it is easier to understand. But if this industry is going to survive, if Australia’s dynamic small bar scene – indeed the whole on-premise category – and our world-class bartenders are to come out the other side strongly, the Government needs to do more to help.
As Independent Bars Association President Karl Schlothauer told Bars and Clubs: “The IBA recognises the need for the government to take the measures they have taken in order help slow the spread of the virus, but we are calling on more support.
“The financial package announced recently is good, but is not good enough.”
To help force the Government to do more to help the thousands of people impacted by the shutdown a group, led by Michael Rodrigues, President of the Night Time Industries Association, has started a Change.Org petition to offer more financial assistance.
Rodrigues told Bars and Clubs: “The view of many in the industry is that the mandated closures of venues – as unthinkable as that once sounded – is a better outcome than the death by a thousand cuts that has been inflicted particularly on food and beverage focussed business since the beginning of March.
“Lack of clarity around physical distancing measures saw many operators try multiple times to win new audience, through initiatives such as price promotions, take away and delivery options.
“The consequence of this incoherent messaging has meant many businesses were down 80 per cent on revenue for the month of March, prior to the mandated close. Make no mistake, the queues at Centrelink that are peaking now, were growing March 1.
“This is why we are calling on Government for immediate cash relief direct into the pockets of those affected, including self-employed business owners. Feedback from small bar and independent operators indicates that the Federal Government stimulus measures announced on Sunday are hard to navigate and will not make a material difference in a timely manner (with an exception being the moratorium on bankruptcy which is directly applicable to their current plight).
“We would ask the State Governments to look at how they can help those most directly affected, to minimise the human impact.
“While we welcome the announcement from Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello today in NSW regarding the lifting of licensing restrictions to allow venues to provide takeaway and home delivery of alcohol, we would also urge folk to think carefully about the economics of this initiative based on their circumstances.
“While there are examples of this working in bars in NYC for the time being at least, it may be more challenging to make this work in our market. I say this because I believe that a number of food businesses who were doing take away and delivery have since stopped since Sunday’s announcement, as these were incremental revenues derived from under-utilised fixed costs (labour and rent).
“If nothing else the announcement from the Minister is hope for an industry desperately in need of it, that the NSW Government is willing to make changes to suit a new generation customers and industry operators. Further changes of this nature will help kickstart the economy and give NSW a competitive edge when we have navigated the immediate challenges of our day which require physical (as opposed to social) distancing.”
The Keep our Venues Alive petition asks the Government to:
1. Work with local councils to suspend Business Rates on venues for at least 3 months
2. Make a financial provision for all staff including casual staff, and self-employed people who cannot work (for at least 3 months)
3. Extend Tax Relief to the hospitality, culture and recreational sector for at least the next 3 months
4. Support Landlords to allow them to give rent holidays to businesses for at least 3 months
5. Create a fund to facilitate financial support for businesses if forced to close / or ensure government forces insurances to cover closures with an additional clause for all businesses including events and festivals
If you are a bartender or casual worker who has lost your job as a result of the shutdown, head to our Resources for Bartenders page, to see what help is available to you.