Eat & Drink

Local hospo businesses have had a tough time of it and are asking for help

It's been a tough two years for the local hospitality industry, and in their own words 'they're struggling'. Then enters the third wave leaving some already battered businesses feeling completely forgotten and left to face some of their greatest challenges without support.

Whether it’s their loyal locals or tourists, who they rely on over the summer months, their customers are missing and the tables are empty. When businesses have been able to open, they've been faced with the challenges of sudden staff shortages, scrambling to adequately staff venues through constant isolations and positive cases, and being unable to give their teams the hours they need.

local hospitality asks government to help
Photos (L to R): Michael Galvin, Prudence Farquhar, Dylan Oakes, Jackson Dunlap, Andrew Dunne

Aside from the financial toll, business owners are suffering mentally, and with our leaders telling them to ‘carry on’, and ‘we can be sure of the road ahead’, the reality is much different.

Meeting with a group of inner-city hospitality traders the message is that it's not a pity party. The message is they care about their staff, want to be able to retain them, and want them to be able to pay their rent, put food on their tables, and be able to pay for their own healthcare when they need it.

Frustrated at a lack of assistance and acknowledgment of the urgency of the situation the group has written letters addressed to state and federal government, as well as our city council, urging them to act in the interest of the hospitality community, and those they employ.

Saints Bar owner Jackson Dunlap explained, "It’s more than just about financial support, it’s about developing a “roadmap” to better accommodate the industry moving forward, with better preparation for any potential lockdown or outbreak in the future."

Michael Galvin - The Ship Inn & The Falcon Inn

We understand it is a complex time with the Covid Pandemic raging on, but it is our fear that without some intervention from the NSW or Federal Governments, the micro economy within Newcastle will lose good operators from the area. These are the people that have put their expertise and personal money on the line to improve the lives of the employees, themselves and the greater community. We are not big hospitality groups with lines of credit, it is personal for us and we cannot control consumer confidence.

A macro view of the economy might suggest less intervention, but I assure you – we are way below the normal parameters of foot traffic afforded to Newcastle. Plainly, the local hospitality industry is in free fall, with no end in sight. 

Jodie Manning - The Happy Wombat & Young Street Hotel

I am used to seeing The Happy Wombat thriving daily, to see empty tables coming into work is heartbreaking. Having to cut staff wages is painful, seeing staff cry because they don’t have the hours to pay their bills is just madness.

Rachel Doyle - Manager at FogHorn Brewery

In the midst of our peak revenue season in the lead up to Christmas, a period when we were desperately trying to recoup some of the horrendous losses we have suffered over the last 2 years and try to pay down some of the near-crippling debts incurred during that time, Covid has come around to ruin it for us yet again. Except for this time, the impact has been 100 times harder to endure: countless staff have contracted Covid with others required to isolate leaving the venue with no other choice but to close. When we had enough staff to open, there have not been enough customers to give the staff the hours they need to survive.

Dylan Oakes - The Family Hotel

We need positive media and journalism that's talking about how good the Newcastle scene is and the need to get behind smaller hospo businesses who have been busting their arse to build their restaurants, bars and cafe, as a city we need them to survive.

Taiyo Namba - Nagisa and Susuru

We have seen significant revenue falls in the last 3 months especially in Dec last year through all 3 of our venues, where we were waiting the whole year to get some financial gains in the summer period we were hit by another outbreak where we have lost further income making December the biggest deficit we have experienced to date.

Prudence X - Bar Mellow and Blue Kahunas

I'd like to see the government incentivise customers to get back out, if you're healthy and had your vaccination and down for a good time then let's get back out there. 

Jordan Mizrahi - Basement on Market St

What promised to be a prosperous Christmas + Summer of trade turned out to be more challenging than any other since COVID-19 first struck. Isolation rules meant that customer patronage was significantly down as were staff numbers. The situation was much worse during the third wave with government support being non-existent. There were no grants available, nor payments to assist with wages or any other expenses.