The numbers don’t stack up yet
Saturday, 16th May, 2020
By Annette Northey
With the state government’s easing of restrictions having begun yesterday, Broken Hill pubs and clubs with the capacity for in-house dining have said allowing 10 people to be seated in their dining areas at any one time is just too little to allow them to reopen.
Overall, operating costs are cited as the most prohibitive, even though many of the establishments contacted by the Barrier Truth have accessed the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to retain staff.
One hotel licensee expressed the general sentiment succinctly by saying it wasn’t worth turning the lights on for ten people.
Musicians Club General Manager Michael Boland said the size of the club was the biggest factor in not being able to open their doors just yet.
“To get a venue as large as the Musicians Club operational; it’s just not cost effective in Stage 1, which is ten (people).
“We’re positive that in Stage 2 or 3, when the state government decides that the limit can go to either 50 or one hundred, that certainly will put us into an area where we can commence reopening.
“At least 50, and being able to trade all areas. Right now, with just food and being unable to open bars or anything like that, it’s just not going to be economical for the club,” he said.
Luckily, this won’t be as detrimental for the Musicians Club as it may be for other businesses.
“Basically, having the club in the position where we’ve managed to get it in the short period of time has given us the ability to withstand this shutdown.
“Through the support of the local community and our members, it’s put the club into a position where we’ve been able to withstand it,” Mr Boland said.
With regard to eventually opening with restrictions, Mr Boland is confident the club will be in a good position to ensure the social distancing orders are met.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming the members back in, and I wouldn’t be - if I didn’t think we could keep them safe.
“I think clubs in general are well set up to ensure social distancing.
“You’ve got to be a member to come in too, so it helps with contact tracing,” he said.
Looking forward, the Musicians Club is keen to continue booking the big-name classic Aussie rock bands that have seen the club build in popularity over the last year or so.
“Dragon is certainly keen to be the first band to come back after all this has lifted.
“We’ve pencilled in November, but it’s going to depend on how the pandemic plays out over the next few months,” Mr Boland said.
“So, yeah, we’ll certainly be back, we’re just waiting for, really, a date. We really need a road map out.
“That’s what we’re pushing the state government for - we need to be able to plan around a date.”
Until then, staff are working behind the scenes attending to the administrative jobs that don’t cease even though the doors are closed, and most staff, including Mr Boland, have been retained through JobKeeper also.
The Demo Club’s doors will remain closed too for the time being, according to an online statement.
The Mulga Hill Tavern and the Broken Hill Pub, both operating a takeaway meal service for lunch and dinner, said they are very busy with those, but neither will open their dining room doors just yet.
Michelle Riebke, Co-manager of the Broken Hill Pub, said they were taken by surprise with the announcement that pubs and clubs could open.
“Normally we get news from the Australian Hotels Association, but nothing.
“Then the next minute it’s on the news - so there was no warning from anyone.
“But it will be up to the owners to decide when to open again,” she said.
Dean Trengove of the Mulga Hill Tavern said cleaning costs were a significant factor in the equation.
“The associated cleaning costs and the volume of the people just isn’t profitable,” he said.
“When it goes to 20 people, we might consider opening - but we’d have to reconsider it at every phase, because they keep changing the rules,” he said.
“You know, Phase 1 didn’t include pubs and now it does.”
Mr Trengove said pretty much every pub, that he is aware of, is getting some maintenance done while closed.
“We’re doing renos; I’ve got the guys coming in to do my cool room next Monday morning.
“I spoke to Eric (Hanna, Tydvil Hotel) yesterday and he’s halfway through replacing the floorboards in his front bar, so he’s not going to open,” he said.
Mr Trengove still has 22 staff employed, with fourteen of them on JobKeeper.
“We’re losing money hand over fist, but I’ve got some really good girls working for me.
“But without that, we would have been shut.
“At least now we get to feed whoever comes in for takeaways, whether it’s for lunch or dinner,” he said.
Mr Trengove told the Barrier Truth the Mulga kitchen hasn’t had a day off for 25 years because the Home Care meal service that operates from it has been running for 365 days a year for the whole time, which is exactly how long he has been there.
“So, maintenance is hard to come by in our kitchen,” he said.
“But with people (staff) still coming in, they’re actively doing things; we’re fixing things.”
Owner of the Silverton Hotel Peter Price said they aren’t opening up just yet either.
“For us to open up the dining room for ten people is just not viable.
“The staff part of it, to be honest, is not the end of the world because we’ve got them on JobKeeper, so I’m not up for wages.
“It’s keeping five of them going, which is good,” Peter said.
“We’ve decided to give it another week and we’ll just see what the demand is.
“We’ll be opening up the Redgum Room, or people can sit outside, and they can have a drink and something to eat.
“But for us to run a full menu, it’s not going to be viable at this stage.”