Bar owners and operators share messages of support

14 October, 2020 by Andy Young

As Australia’s bar scene battles through the COVID-closures, restrictions and curfews, owners and operators have highlighted that their biggest strength might well just be each other.

When Bars and Clubs contacted a number of operators to ask what messages they had for colleagues in the trade so we can focus on having as strong a summer as possible, it was inspiring to see some much support for each other. Even though the industry is going through the toughest of times, these guys are still looking out for each other and offering great advice.


Jared Merlino, told Bars and Clubs: “For any operator out there and for anyone in hospitality, you just got to focus on why we were in hospitality in the first place. We’re here to serve people and create an exceptional experience.

“Just because we have reduced numbers through the doors down doesn’t mean we can’t keep delivering that. And I think if we do that now and show our customers that much they mean to us then they’ll show us kindness in the future and keep coming back.

“Let’s just keep it tight, let’s not let’s not push the boundaries of our friends in the council and the New South Wales Government. Let’s all let’s all stick to safety plans and stick inside the lines and we should be able to get through this together.

“As an industry we all need to band together and we’re seeing a lot that now anyway, a lot of operators are talking on a daily basis, supporting each other and helping each other through it. So, if there’s anyone out there that wants an ear, mine’s always here, and I’m ready to help anyone who needs it.”

Alex Dahlenburg at Speakeasy, also had great advice and the offer of support.

“This summer is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen and we don’t have a crystal ball to predict how it’s going to roll,” she said.

“We usually rely on Christmas parties, the fun festive summer season with large groups getting together and having a jolly old time. This year, I don’t see it happening, restrictions won’t lift that much to allow the bigger group bookings, we won’t see the corporate party spends like a lot of us usually do. While we will have that spike in revenue it won’t be as condensed as it usually is.

“I see a lot of family time happening for Australians as hopefully the borders will open a little more and remember we won’t have that summer international tourism.

“My advice to fellow colleagues is to focus on your marketing, your social media presence and driving in as much business as you possibly can. Think outside of the box. Be very fluid, we need to pivot as soon as goal posts move, have plan a, b and c in place so when restrictions shift, you have all your contingencies planned out and you can act as quickly as possible. Watch your cash flow, spends and forecast the best you possibly can.

“For Bartenders, your venue is your business now too, do what you can to help the business thrive in these unknown circumstances.

“My biggest message is to reach out and talk to as many people as you can, share your thoughts, fears, ideas, help each other as a group and collaborate and team up because together we’re stronger. And this is a strong industry! My phone is always in my hand.”

Stefano Catino reminded us all that shortcuts in this climate are not going to do anyone any favours.

“Respect the government guidance for COVID, ensure you have the correct procedures in place and people are signing in,” he said.

“We all want to provide the best service we possibly can to make for a really strong summer and as bar owners, we play an important role in ensuring our venues are as COVID-free as possible. Don’t take shortcuts, respect the guidelines and hopefully we’ll have a solid summer because of it.

“Keep your focus on why you created the bar in the first place and be adaptable. Don’t lose sight of the experience you want your guests to have as that’s what hospitality is all about.”

Alex ‘Happy’ Gilmour agreed, and had this great advice: “I think be proactive in your engagement in your offering, try to be dynamic but practical and work with your guests to continue to offer the best experience for them that you possibly can, all restrictions and changes aside, this is what we love to do.”

The importance of being ready for summer and making sure every patron enjoys the best experience possible was emphasised by Mikey Enright, who said: “Let’s hope that local tourism will take a city vacation this summer and we can show them what the Australian bar scene has to offer.”

Working together was another consistent theme we heard from many we spoke to, and Natalie Ng said the team at Door Knock has been doing its bit to help support other bars around them.

“We’re all in it together,” she told Bars and Clubs. “So being able to encourage each other and ensuring that customers in your bar will go out and check out everyone else that’s local to you. That’s incredibly important and we have been doing that because we have more time on the floor to chat to our customers and ask them ‘what you’re up to after this? Are you having dinner? If you have time, make sure you check out Burrow Bar, or Bistecca, or Employees, Uncle Mings, Stitch or PS40’.

“Giving them a list of suggestions of places they might want to check out next time and just really keeping that conversation open is I think, extremely important at the moment.”

It’s great to see, and it’s an idea echoed by Jakob Overduin, co-owner, Hendriks Cognac & Wine.

He said: “We need to work together, locally. Let’s take the time to come together with support, ideas and promotions that helps the area and not just our individual businesses. Be open to cross promotions, be open to changing what you’ve always done and don’t see the guy next door as competition.

“The more you can do to make your area a destination, the most it benefits everyone. Due to COVID, people are less interested in travelling out of their area in cabs and Ubers so if we can create a ‘night out’ within the area and not just at one venue, it’s far more appealing to our potential guests.”

Karl Schlothauer has this great message for everyone: “We have all been through a brutally tough period and it is important to keep our mindset in check. It is easy to slip into negative mindset and now is the time to work together, keep our chins up to get to the other side of this intact better and stronger.”

And as ever, a brilliant message from Charlie Lehmann, which is great advice for everyone – not just those in the industry: “Go and support your mates! Wash your hands, cover your mouth and always … Don’t be a dick.”

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