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Venues call on Victorian suppliers and consumers to help get through second lockdown

As venue operators across Greater Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire come to grips with being closed down again, one owner has told The Shout that now is the time for the industry to really come together and show its support.

Zara Madrusan, Director of Made in the Shade, which owns The Everleigh, Heartbreaker, Bar Margaux and Connie’s Pizza, has called on suppliers, trade and consumers to help venues get through the huge impact of a second closure.

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“To the industry, it’s OK to express your hurt right now,” Madrusan told The Shout.

“’Stay strong’, sure, but it’s also OK to be angry, to grieve. As an industry I think we need to do what we can to unite, seek support from peers and talk about the challenges and how to best navigate.”

She added: “If delivery isn’t the right thing for your business, don’t do it. You know what’s right for your business better than anyone else does, and what’s right for the neighbouring bar isn’t necessarily the same for you.

“Be open and honest with your staff about what’s going on and how you anticipate the business will be affected.”

In terms of what we can all do to help, Madrusan told The Shout: “To consumers and trade nationally, show your support. Put your money where your mouth is, where you can.

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“Gift friends bottled cocktails, order delivery from your local restaurants, purchase gift vouchers as an investment in our livelihood that you can enjoy on the other side.

“Follow, like, share words of support. It means more than you know.”

The impact of a second closure just weeks after many venues went through the expense of re-opening following the first nationwide lockdown cannot be underestimated. Venues will have reordered stock and generally geared cashflow towards longer opening times, and while understanding times will also be difficult for suppliers, Madrusan called for patience.

“The supply chain that was just starting to move again has been frozen, and every step on the ladder is affected. I know I speak for every venue when I say we need patience and understanding from suppliers right now.

“Don’t be quick to disrespect or disregard what have previously been such positive working relationships. Understand we are working at such a limited capacity, and we’re doing our best in a dire situation. We have to work together.”

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It’s a sentiment echoed by Adams Betts, Co-Owner of Bonny Bar, who agreed suppliers and operators need to work together to get through this tough time.

“Suppliers will need to be understanding and possibly extend terms of open invoices for affected venues. Any unopened bottles, untapped kegs etc they are willing to take back [would help]. Baring in mind that suppliers will also be doing it tough, I believe the key is communication both ways, so they know where they stand, when they can expect their bills to be paid and plan accordingly.

“Shying away or avoiding suppliers if you’re unable to pay their invoices on-time is usually going to escalate and make your situation worse. It is best to be honest with them and open up dialogue on when you’re expecting to be able to make payments.

“In return you might find they support you further now and in the future with initiatives.”

As well as trade, industry and consumers, both Madrusan and Betts, plus Brooke Hayman, Director at Whisky & Alement, had a unified call to the Government.

“JobKeeper needs to be extended beyond the end of September at the very least,” said Madrusan.

“JobKeeper will need to be extended for effected businesses until all restrictions are lifted,” said Betts, and “We’d like to see JobKeeper continue beyond September,” was what Hayman had to say.

She added: [We’d like to see} grants to cover unavoidable expenses. If we can cover costs during this period we will have the strength to re-emerge on the other side, both mentally and financially.”

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Madrusan agrees that the hospitality industry in particular will need Government support to make it through this crisis.

“I hope to see more targeted support for the industries most affected, and longer term plans to aid the industry in getting back on their feet, given the implications of extended delays,” she said.

To put that request for help into perspective, Madrusan told The Shout how difficult this second lockdown will be, even for a successful and well-run group like Made in the Shade.

“It’s hard to say what long term damage we will face following another substantial period of closure.

“The challenges are mounting, debts are rising. Many of our overheads remain as they did during the first closure, and we don’t yet have any commitment of additional or extended government funding or support.”

Yesterday, Australian Hotelier reported just how devastating the second lockdown has been for publicans in Melbourne, with Craig Shearer, director at Open Arms Hospitality, who operates The Terminus Hotel, saying: “It’s just a nightmare really.

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“We’ve just reopened – staff and our loyal locals were all so happy about it, and just the emotional drain on everyone to be closing down again is the toughest part.”

Madrusan is taking part in a panel discussion during Road to Recovery hospitality webinar, taking place on Wednesday, 15 July. The free webinar will offer advice for venue operators on repositioning and recovery strategies through a series of Q&As and panel discussions.

By Andy Young - The Shout
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