The COVID-19 pandemic along with mainstream media hysteria and actions of Governments overseas has Australia’s on-premise industry facing tough times.
The public are seemingly unsure what is safe, and with so much mis-information and speculation regarding coronavirus, the only thing that does unfortunately seem certain is that there some very difficult times ahead.
So far, Australia’s Government has not followed the actions of some overseas Governments in closing venues, but it remains to be seen what will happen. In the meantime it is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to keep ourselves, staff and the public as safe as possible during the pandemic.
Karl Schlothauer, Chairman of the Independent Bars Association told Bars and Clubs that there will indeed be some tricky waters to navigate over the coming weeks and months.
“Thus far we have advised our members to open dialogue with their landlords about possible rent reductions and or pause’s if the situation escalate,” he said.
He added that operators should also, “get an understanding of what their personal (sick) and annual leave balances look like as they may be required to pay them in a lump sum. You should keep communications open with staff about and changes that are happening.”
One other thing venues will need to do is look at other revenue streams, Schlothauer advised: “Start to market gift cards as way to help bolster cash reserves.”
It is worth checking the conditions on your licence, as Julian White, Co-Founder of Whisky & Alement in Melbourne told Bars and Clubs, they are looking at different options.
“We are fortunate to have a general license so we’ll be looking into a way to enter the online space for deliveries and draw down on stock in the event of total closure.”
He added: “In terms of keeping staff safe we’re doing what most venues are and requesting customers and staff who have any symptoms to stay at home.
“We’re lowering the capacity of all of our whisky classes to allow more social distancing. Customers are being offered a gift voucher for any bookings that may be cancelled or if they wish to stay away from the public.
“We’ve implemented extra cleaning regimes and we’ve gone cashless.”
COVID-19 does require us all to be more vigilant and personally aware, but as White says, “Enjoying a night out safely is possible during these times providing everyone does the right thing by self-isolating when necessary and keeping good personal hygiene.”
He adds: “Not over indulging in alcohol is more important than ever because when we’ve had a few whiskies we let our guard down and forget to keep our distance.”
A GLOBAL CRISIS
Stefano Catino told Bars and Clubs: “It’s a tough time. Last week trade was normal, but this week we will see. In all our venues we did extra training all last week and now our cleaning measures are higher than ever.”
There’s an extra personal touch for Catino and his partners in Maybe Frank and Maybe Sammy, as he explained: “We are Italian and so for all of us our families back home are involved. From home everyone says it is better to act now than to wait.
“I think if we have to close, I’d rather we do that sonner than later, as it is better to close than trade with not many people, as this will be even worse in my opinion.
“This is not just a Sydney or Australia crisis, this is global and we need to listen and do what we are told from the Government and experts and we need to do it seriously.”
KEEPING EVERYONE SAFE
A number of groups have issued statements explaining what measures they are taking to keep people safe, and urging anyone who does not feel well to stay away.
The team at Applejack said: “Considering the recent events and the World Health Organisation’s announcement regarding COVID-19, we want to ensure all of our guests, regulars and upcoming event customers are well aware of our actions to keep our venues safe and sanitised.
“Health and hygiene practices at our restaurants, bars and cafes have always been of high importance, and we have implemented precautionary measures to ensure our environments continue to remain safe.
“We would like to emphasise the importance of ensuring everyone feels safe in a clean environment, so if you are unwell or showing symptoms please be mindful of your interactions with others and seek medical advice.
“We encourage you to continue to support local businesses while it is still safe to do so, and we promise to continue to deliver exceptional experiences for you to enjoy.”
It was similar messaging from The Speakeasy Group, who said: “The safety and well-being of our guests is always our priority. We are actively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and are taking steps to help keep our communities safe.
“We are actively working with our suppliers to ensure our ingredients remain fresh and available, and the quality and variety offered to our guests does not fall short of our usual perfection.
“We have always exceeded food safety and sanitation standards, however, we have implemented a number of additional precautions to proactively minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for our guests and teams.
“Whilst you can’t come into contact with the virus through food or drink, we understand that menus, tables, cutlery, etc, are another story. We are paying particular attention to wiping things down using fresh cleaning cloths and disinfectants that are effective against the coronavirus after each use.
“We have also increased the availability of hand-sanitizer dispensers and have increased the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing other high-touch surfaces such as doors, bottles, touch screens, restrooms and more.”
The group added: “Our management has strict rules in place to make sure that members of our team aren’t coming to work if they feel even slightly off the mark, and are providing additional health and safety training along with a consistent flow of information to ensure that everybody remains fully informed on policy changes or of any increased risk or compromise to our operations.
“If you feel unease and would like something wiped down before you touch it, or would like to discuss how we are proactively dealing with the outbreak please just ask, your safety and enjoyment is our main priority.”
Meanwhile Made in The Shade group in Melbourne has also acted quickly, introducing enhanced hygiene practices, reducing venue numbers and only accepting contactless payments, and asking staff and patrons not to come in if they don’t feel well.
Zara Madrusan told Bars and Clubs: “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.
“That’s our messaging to date – not simply supporting your local venue because we need it, but do what’s right by you and we’ll do the same and let’s just keep moving forward as much as we can.”
Michael Madrusan added: “Hospitality is such a great industry for recognising team members as a family unit. So now more than ever, people really need to stick to their family and support each other, keep a level head and know that this is going to pass and when it’s over we are going to be OK.”
The Everleigh Bottling Co introduce a range of hampers to liven up ‘Happy Hour at Home’, featuring signature single-serve bottled classic cocktails (Martini, Negroni, Manhattan, Old Fashioned), glassware, a copy of A Spot At The Bar, (recipe book and more, written by Michael and Zara Madrusan) and venue gift vouchers.
The group also said; “In addition, The Everleigh Bottling Co. are working on a special release of ‘medicinal’ cocktails that if nothing else, lift the spirits in a time of doom and gloom. For the first time the company will produce cocktails to go that utilise fresh citrus, made that day by The Everleigh bartenders and delivered to your door in larger format bottles, for parties of two, four, and six.
“Drinks include such as the modern-classic Penicillin (scotch, fresh lemon, honey, spicy fresh ginger and peated whisky) and the Medicina Latina (tequila, fresh lime, fresh ginger, honey and mezcal).”
As Schlothauer said there are likely to be some tricky waters ahead over the coming weeks and months, here at Bars and Clubs we will continue to support the trade in whatever way we can and will definitely be there championing the industry and getting out when the crisis passes. Our best wishes to all, stay healthy and if there is anything we can do to help, please get in touch.