Since the government announced several closures and shut-downs on Monday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, pubs, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and other hospitality businesses have had to shut their doors or adapt to the new regulations put in place.
The Royal Hotel in Tumut’s main street is one such business making changes, closing their indoor dining and offering takeaway beverages from 10am-12 midday, and takeaway meals from 5-8:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday night.
Licensee Greg Kabar acknowledges the hospitality industry has taken a tough hit, “especially on the back of the fires.”
Businesses have no choice but to adapt to the changes and try to make a bit of money, as well as apply for grants that the government is supplying through their budget stimulus packages.
“Businesses have to [apply],” he said, “because [of] the domino effect.
“If one part of this industry topples over then it [affects] the rest of them. Aristocrat with the pokies, the TAB, even with the beer supplies, we’re all interconnected.”
Mr Kabar says it is “too early to tell” whether the grants will be enough to get the business through the next couple of months. He believes that the best case scenario going forward would see The Royal reopening and returning to full, normal operation in June this year.
The publican was not caught off guard by the various shut-downs that were announced on Monday. He had been following the news overseas, and Scott Morrison’s announcements the previous Friday already had staff members concerned.
“He (Scott Morrison) threw us into a huge panic 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon with the 4m2 rule (in regards to social distancing),” Mr Kabar said.
“That had us all scrambling straight away.
“Friday was the moment of, ‘this is gonna happen’.”
When the situation kept developing and Monday arrived, Mr Kabar was concerned about the business and all the financial implications that come along with new regulations, but his first thoughts were of the people.
“My concern more so was for the staff and the customers,” he said.
“Everyone hopes their business survives and all that sort of stuff, but first of all we hope we survive.”
The close-knit relationships that staff members have with one another and with their customers is what has helped everyone get through these tough few months, with the business facing hardship with the bushfires earlier this year and now the virus.
“The mood here with the staff is really upbeat. Humour has played a huge part in us getting through this, we’re a very close-knit, tight family here at The Royal,” he said.
“We’ve got a great close connection with our customers, we consider them like extended family basically, and we still want to be able to provide a service for them.”
Mr Kabar has reassured employees at The Royal that their jobs will “absolutely” be here, waiting for them once the virus passes.
In the meantime, Mr Kabar and other business owners in the industry will continue to toe the line between running a business and protecting people’s health, a line that is often so difficult to navigate that they would rather it be left to the government to decide.
“Most people are pretty happy to be told to shut down,” Mr Kabar said, rather than having to make that difficult call for themselves.
And as for the message he wants to send out to customers?
“Take it (the virus) seriously, the time for gathering and celebration will come, and we’ll ensure it will be a cracker at the end of all of this.”