Having been through five lockdowns in 18 months you’d forgive Victorians for feeling enough is enough but Michael Madrusan has told Bars and Clubs, we’ve just got to keep going.
Michael and wife Zara’s Made in the Shade group runs four venues in Melbourne, The Everleigh, Heartbreaker, Bar Margaux and Connie’s Pizza, as well as The Everleigh Bottling Company, which sells bottled cocktails across Australia. And despite the challenges the last 18 months has thrown up, Michael said they did not consider not re-opening any of the venues.
“You’ve got to be careful, but you can’t be too careful you know. You just have to keep going and for us, if we open then we open. We buy the stock and then if you have to shut down, you just figure out what you are going to do with that stock.
“Are we turning it into food for the teams, are we donating it to hospo and making ready-to-eat meals for everyone to take home and take care of them, so you just have to write it off as a loss.
“But I think if we go back into every reopen with a fear that we’re going to get shut down and have some food on hand, then the offering will probably suffer, which no-one wants.”
“It’s not something we’ve done yet, but who knows another couple of lockdowns and I might be signing a different tune,” he joked, “we might say we’re only going to order things in fucking tins now because we can’t afford to buy fresh.”
Michael added: “I just know I’d never like to get there, so we just keep going and we just keep trying.”
He told Bars and Clubs one of the big strengths for the group has been the finance team it has, who have always had their backs.
“They’ve been really dedicated, they care about the business so they’ve always done the right thing by the people and that’s been really good for us. I think there’s probably businesses that have had a less human approach to the survival process, but the guys we’ve got running our numbers are really quick, they are smart and the care about the business and the people. They are really connected.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation because the fact is for Zara and I we have to throw our hands up and say this is a numbers game now, we have to pay attention to the numbers and they have to decide where the money goes and when.”
And in terms of re-opening, Michael told Bars and Clubs: “The only one that we were really nervous about would be Margaux because it was so young. When it first went under it was around seven months old, so it didn’t have as big a following and relied a lot on foot traffic in the CBD and then people going back to work in the CBD.
“So Margaux was the one we were worried about and the one which gave me a lot of doubt. But I’m glad it’s a conversation that never had to happen. And now we’ve got some fresh energy in there, new passion and you can see it and feel it when you walk in the door. You can see people that genuinely care and they are happy to be, which is great.”
With a strong team at Margaux in place and the other venues again starting to recover from their fifth lockdown Michael said the group is starting to look forward and is making plans.
The Everleigh celebrates its tenth birthday this year, and while that party was originally scheduled for this month that has been pushed back a little for now. The Everleigh Bottling Co continues to build its profile and has been a useful business for the group to have. So incredibly the optimism is still there, the desire to offer great hospitality experiences and look after the staff is as evident as it has ever been as is the drive to make sure the group continues to go for it and hopefully they can stay away from “fucking tins”.