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20 May 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
While Wimmera venue owners eagerly await being able to reopen, many have taken the opportunity of forced closures to build on their establishments.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants can reopen to 20 customers on June 1, with the possibility of up to 100 patrons in mid-July.
But Premier Daniel Andrews stressed this was not a done deal, and continuing high levels of COVID-19 testing was essential to inform the staggered approach to reopening venues.
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He said venues would need to adhere to strict physical-distancing measures when opening and would be required to do extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks.
Venues will also be required to take the contact details of every customer to assist in rapid contact tracing.
Countrywide lockdowns in March pushed many venues to resort to a takeaway only menu to keep their business viable through COVID-19.
However, owners of Horsham’s White Hart and Bull and Mouth hotels decided it was time to upgrade.
White Hart publican Bruce Hartigan closed his doors and is now preparing to reopen with a fresh look.
Mr Hartigan said he was able to keep his staff employed to help paint the building, install new carpets and revitalise the establishment’s accommodation wing.
“Once JobKeeper came in we could pay staff, and that’s been keeping them active. They’re happy to be here and they’ve done a fantastic job painting the building,” he said.
Mr Hartigan said he wanted to keep his business moving forward despite the massive hit to the hospitality industry.
“We couldn’t do takeaway, it wasn’t viable to have lights on, staff on and buying produce, if you’re not selling anything it’s just going off,” he said.
“But we’re all doing it tough at the moment. It’s a tough climate and it’s not going to get easier for a year or two.”
Mr Hartigan said the staggered approach to reopening venues to only 20 people at a time was economically challenging.
“Because of legislation there will be a lot of work in reopening,” he said.
“If I open like that, I’m going to lose money, I’ll lose between $5000 and $10,000 a week, but we’ll worry about that when we come to it.”
Bull and Mouth publican Simon Mitchell has been working with Wimmera contractors to build a verandah, renovate accomodation rooms and rebuild the bartop at his venue.
Mr Mitchell has managed the venue since 2009 and transformed it into a social hub in Horsham.
His venue is also renowned as a pillar for Horsham’s live entertainment sector, attracting musicians from across the region to perform.
Mr Mitchell said he hoped he could retain the hub he had built throughout a decade when restrictions were fully lifted.
“We’ve created a great social hub – I can’t see us getting back to capacity, with a band and 150 people, until December this year,” he said.
“We’ve just got to make people feel safe and welcome again when we come back.
“You’ve just got to consistently believe you’re doing the right thing, producing the best food you can and the best environment you can, that’s all you can hope to achieve.”
Mr Mitchell said he was staying positive despite the uncertainty.
“Our industry has been the worst affected, but just staying busy is the best thing you can do,” he said.
“We’re very positive in every situation there’s a good outcome.”
The entire May 20, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!