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‘$500k wiped instantly’: Owners reveal pandemic’s nightmarish impact on business

Owners reveal nightmarish impact of coronavirus on business. Source: Supplied
Owners reveal nightmarish impact of coronavirus on business. Source: Supplied

Pub and club owners have been forced to stand down staff and close doors as the Prime Minister’s new lockdown measures take effect, citing huge emotional and financial strain as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The government’s strict lockdown measures mean all non-essential businesses such as pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas and places of worship have been shut down, effective Monday, with restaurants and cafés allowed to continue operating as takeaway facilities.

Ben Neumann, owner of large two-storey bar and function venue, Ellora, in St Kilda, Melbourne, said he had been effectively shut down, with all back-to-back bookings until October cancelled.

“Within seven days, we lost all of our events,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“The phone was running hot, the emails didn’t stop and before we knew it we saw $500,000 worth of events wiped instantly.

“Our $60,000 sales weeks turned to zero.”

Since then, Neumann has had to stand down a large number of office and administrative staff, as well as bartenders and floor staff.

Ben Neumann and his staff members. Source: Supplied
Ben Neumann and his staff members. Source: Supplied

“Our company was busier than ever. We employed new staff to meet our ongoing demands. We recently finished up a contract with the Australian Open and were ready to activate our Grand Prix events when everything came to a grinding halt,” Neumann said.

That grinding halt saw 80 per cent of Neumann’s staff redundant and stood down.

And while the financial stress is a burden, Neumann is dealing with emotional strain too.

“There have been a lot of tears shed,” he said.

“There was some anger and confusion at the start, but most people understand and are just adjusting to the new reality. It’s a hopeless and helpless situation.”

But Neumann hopes displaced staff will find roles quickly.

“If the hospitality industry is known for anything, it’s for the camaraderie we share,” he said.

“If you have survived hospitality for a few years it means you have thick skin, great contacts and an insatiable desire to thrive and overcome any obstacles thrown your way. Our staff, including the wider hospitality and events industry, are drawing on that now more than ever.”

But businesses are pivoting

While Ellora can’t operate as a venue, Neumann said business is changing.

“We’ve decided to do a popup takeaway coffee, juice and milkshake bar,” he said.

And it doesn’t stop there.

“Through our mobile beverage arm, Liquid Infusion, we’re launching an online cocktail delivery service, where our bartenders will make cocktails fresh for you and deliver them anywhere in metro Melbourne.

“Multiple people from the same social group or organisation can order the same drinks and have an online party together. Corporate companies can even send the cocktails to their employees at home.”

Major café chain The Coffee Club is keeping up with the pandemic by creating its Care Kits, which are made up of basic staples like milk, bread and barista-made coffee.

You can order the packages as a gift to a friend or loved one who can’t access supermarkets, or you can order food and coffee directly from the Coffee Club through its takeaway option.

“Alongside many businesses around Australia, The Coffee Club are feeling the impact of COVID-19. We are trying to stay as positive as we can and rapidly evolve our business and our offering as the situation unfolds,” CEO Nick Bryden told Yahoo Finance.

“Our stores are still operating, just in a different way, now via delivery, takeaway and order ahead for collection and we expect to see an increase in orders placed through delivery and to takeaway.

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