Hospitality hopes for early open

By Michael Roberts | posted on May 8, 2020

NOW that Australia has flattened the curve, there’s one question on a lot of people’s minds – when do we get to go back to the pub?

It remains unclear exactly when Western Australians will be able to drink a pint at their local or chow down on seasonal produce at their favourite restaurant, but there have been indications from Government the re-opening of hospitality venues might not be too far away.

Last week the WA Government announced every employee in the hospitality industry would have to complete COVID-19 hygiene training in preparation of returning to work.

Venues won’t be able to open as dine-in operations when current restrictions are lifted unless every employee has successfully passed a COVID-19 hygiene assessment.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia labelled the mandatory course a “road to recovery” for WA’s restaurants, bars and cafes.

At a Federal Government level, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said National Cabinet will today discuss relaxing coronavirus restrictions earlier than first planned, saying “Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they’ve done”.

But until the day our favourite establishments can welcome us back, hospitality businesses continue to do it tough as one of the hardest hit industries during this pandemic.

Venice Restaurant Owner Guy Lembo said his business had lost at least 50 per cent of its revenue, and he considered himself one of the lucky ones.

Mr Lembo’s Italian eatery has been one of only a small number of hospitality venues in Albany to remain open during WA’s social isolation period.

“There are businesses out there that have only just opened their doors up after six weeks,” he said.

“Cash flow is so important to small business. I’m in the lucky position that most others aren’t.

“There are so many hospitality businesses screaming for help at the moment.”

It’s a similar story for Parisian-inspired bar Liberte, which has had to stand down half of its staff because of a “considerable drop” in revenue.

Venue Manager Keryn Giles hoped the State Government’s new hygiene course would give customers confidence to come back to hospitality venues when the time was right.

“We want people to feel safe,” she said.

“Kitchen staff all have to do a safe food handling course, so it makes sense that everyone in front of house have to do something similar.

“There were some common sense things in there, but common sense or not it’s good to remind people of these things.”

Down the road on Stirling Terrace, Six Degrees Bar & Restaurant has recently reopened for takeaway after closing its doors for nearly a month.

Six Degrees Venue Manager Geoff Waldeck said the venue went through the painstaking process of letting go 20 staff in one day.

Under the Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage package, casual workers – which cover most jobs in the hospitality industry – had to have been working at the same business for 12 months to be eligible.

Mr Waldeck said the Government had to draw a line somewhere with JobKeeper, but would have preferred casuals who had been working for him for six months to be eligible for the payment.

“I would have loved to see some of my casuals get treated better,” he said.

“It hurts when you line jobs up for people and have to let them go. Some of them were in positions of leadership.”

Until hospitality gets the green light from Government, small businesses are relying on the support of locals to keep them afloat, and all three venues mentioned above said locals hadn’t let them down.

“We have heaps of regulars making an effort to pop in once a week or once a fortnight to get some takeaway,” Ms Giles said.

“That’s all we can ask is for locals to spread the love and try keep alive the venues they enjoy.”