“The hospitality capital of Australia”: Messages of support for Melbourne

15 October, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

As the extreme conditions of the Melbourne shutdown continue, publicans from across Australia send messages of support to their Victorian counterparts.

After enduring three months of a second shutdown, many hoteliers in Melbourne had hoped that their venues would have been reopened by now. And with everyday that passes that venues are restricted to takeaway only, both the financial security of pubs and the mental health of operators and their staff continues to deteriorate.

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With hopes dashed that Premier Dan Andrews would announce an easing of restrictions on on-premise trading over the weekend, publicans from across Australia are sending messages of support to their Melbourne colleagues in the hopes that it provides a small amount of comfort in this most trying of times.

From New South Wales, Sam Arnaout of Iris Capital, said that there is really nothing like the Melbourne pub scene, and that when it came it design and architecture, Melbourne is the standard that all pubs across the country compare themselves to. In a particular shout out, he said everyone should visit The Espy in St Kilda at least once in their life. While the situation is incredibly tough, Arnaout, believes that the public will support venues as soon as it’s possible to do so.

“It’s hard to find any positive in the dire situation our Melbourne colleagues face, but in Sydney people came out in a big way [when we reopened] so I hope the reopening sees some sensible numbers for population in the pubs. I feel for the Melbourne scene and hope for everyone this madness comes to an end soon so they can get on with business.”

Jenny Hurley AM of Hurley Hotel Group, who gave a special shout-out to her favourite Melbourne pubs Platform 28 and The Precinct, shares the sentiment, knowing the support will be strong once venues can re-open their doors.

“My heart breaks for publicans, families and their staff in Victoria. I know how difficult it was for us and our staff in SA when we were shut down and felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But when sanity finally prevails in Melbourne and pubs are able to open, our experience has been that customers and staff are so excited to be back that you can’t wipe the smiles off their faces!  Those first tap beers are just amazing.”

Tim McLernon, general manager of Three Pound Group in Perth, praised the Melbourne pub scene for its variety and high standard of operations.

“Melbourne has such a vibrant and varied pub scene across all the different locations in the city. It’s always been very obvious to me that pub operators and their staff have very high levels of presentation, service and pride in their venues. I have walked some amazing pub crawls over there over the last few years and have definitely missed being able to get over there for a footy weekend this year.

“My favourite pub in Melbourne is the Village Belle Hotel in St Kilda – it’s got everything a good pub should have and caters to such a diverse crowd. I have spent some good afternoons there in the TAB.”

Brian Fitzgibbons, director of Fitzgibbons Hotels in Queensland, lamented the closure of Melbourne’s pubs and it’s unmatched food offering.

“It is absolutely devastating. We were closed for three months and it was shattering – I can’t even begin to imagine what our Victorian mates are going through. My heart goes out to operators, staff – the whole industry. Victoria and Melbourne have always been the leaders of great pub food in Australia, no question about that. Quite simply put, the superb food is what makes Melbourne’s pub scene so unique, and we are really missing it right now. I am sure Victorians are dying to have a taste of that great food, and sense of community that pubs offer.”

He continued: “Hang in there guys. I know you are all probably feeling a bit lonesome down there but Queensland’s hospitality industry is up here rooting for you and cheering you on! Once things are better we will be the first ones down there lining up to buy a beer and eat a steak. Stay strong. You’ll come back even better!”

And once venues are reopened, Lee Behan of Ark Group in Perth has his Melbourne pub crawl sorted.

“Its extremely hard to pick a favourite but my ideal day would start off at The Drunken Poet for a pint of Guinness then into Fitzroy for lunch at the Builders Arms Hotel, and then kick on into the night at Garden State Hotel on Flinders Lane!”

Behan urged Melbourne publicans to hang in there, and remember one crucial fact.

“Melbourne has and always will be the hospitality capital of Australia – you guys will be back better than ever.”