27 July 2020

Labor Clubs close, others reduce hours amid COVID-19 uncertainty

| Dominic Giannini
Join the conversation
City Labor Club

The Canberra Labor Club Group has announced it will close its venues amid rising uncertainty around a COVID-19 resurgence in NSW and Victoria. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

As the rolling impact of COVID-19 continues to hit the ACT’s licensed clubs, creating significant uncertainty about trading conditions, all Canberra Labor Clubs have stopped trading as of last night (26 July) at 10:00 pm.

The Canberra Southern Cross Club (SCC) group has also warned staff that they will be reducing staff hours and closing venues two days a week.

The Canberra Labor Club Group said it would re-open when the Territory moves to stage 3 restrictions which would allow bars, pubs and clubs to serve alcohol to seated patrons, with no limit on group size. Presently under stage 2.2 restrictions in the ACT, all indoor and outdoor gatherings are restricted to 100 people under the 1 per 4 square metre rule.

“The health and safety of our employees, members and community is our main focus and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to all of our venues when it is safe to do so,” a spokesperson said.

The Labor Clubs join an increasing number of venues in the ACT that are either re-closing or operating on reduced hours.

Southern Cross Clubs in Woden, Tuggeranong and Jamison announced they would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and permanent employees have been asked to agree to reduce their weekly hours of work to the equivalent of three days (24 hours) per week (and a lesser pro-rata amount for part-time employees).

SCC will stand down employees without pay if they do not agree to the changes in hours in accordance with s 524 of the Fair Work Act, the group said.

In a letter to staff on Friday, SCC CEO Ian Mackay wrote: “It is presently intended that these arrangements stay in place until Friday 7 August 2020, after which time the Club will reconsider its position. However, the current climate means that these arrangements may need to be reassessed earlier than planned.”

The decision to close Labor Clubs and reduce staff hours at SCC came three days after the ACT announced on Friday (24 July) that it would again be postponing the easing of restrictions while the Chief Health Officer keeps an eye on the unfolding situation in Victoria and NSW.

SEE ALSO New testing site announced as ACT braces for COVID-19 return

ClubsACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees said clubs understood that health officials had to respond to pandemic challenges as they arose, but the ACT Government also has to show more understanding of the reality of business, especially around the cost of reopening large venues such as clubs.

Gwyn Rees

ClubsACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees says false starts are killing clubs in the ACT. Photo: ClubsACT.

“Every time a reopening date is announced, business such as clubs invest in order to get their venue ready. Last Friday was when the ACT was meant to move to stage three restrictions, but this did not happen.

“The announcement to revoke this decision was made very late in the piece, certainly after clubs had spent tens of thousands of dollars preparing to reopen or to reopen just for a short period.”

According to Mr Rees, the Austrian Australian Club at Mawson spent $25,000 getting the club ready to reopen on 6 July before shutting the day after to preserve cashflow when Canberra did not move to stage three.

Expenses included purchasing health and hygiene products and signage, staff wages, cleaning, and food and drinks, he said.

Vikings CEO Anthony Hill echoed the sentiment, telling Region Media that the group was moving in line with ACT Government guidelines. But receiving only 24-hours’ notice about whether restrictions would ease or not was “problematic”, he said.

“We need as much time as possible to get staff and stock in, especially with perishables,” he said. “We will work in lockstep with the Government but we need more clarity.

“We have 70 per cent of costs [of running the club] with only 20 per cent of the revenue; it is not a long-term solution.”

Thermometers have been installed at Erindale Vikings and Town Centre Vikings

Thermometers have been installed at Erindale Vikings and Town Centre Vikings to reduce COVID-19 risk. Photo: Vikings Group Facebook.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

So in short, industry overly reliant on gambling shows that, when it can’t provide said gambling service, its unsustainable. Who would of thought that to be the case?

Yes, service businesses often rely on providing their services to stay viable.

Saying they are “overly reliant” is meaningless, it’s not like they’re going to diversify into mining, they have core services that are struggling due to government mandated closures and restrictions. And that applies to their other services just as much as pokie revenue.

The real question is why the government is still restricting those services so heavily, whilst they are open or less restricted across the border in NSW with their higher case numbers.

Particularly when our government claimed that the ACT couldn’t be an island inside NSW and had to align ourselves to their restrictions throughout the first lockdown period.

Apparently despite being at significantly lower risk than NSW, we still have tighter restrictions in this area, which makes no sense from either a logical or consistent communications perspective.

The government has been flip flopping like a caught fish.

Every time they go with their hand out to Government, its under the guise of ‘diversifying away from some a reliance on gambling’. Yet nothing changes does it – its time for a genuine reconsideration of whether the gaming led model employed by clubs is the best way to service the element of the community the clubs claim they are servicing.

Rightly or wrongly, the Government has been exceptionally consistent on this element (unusual for this Government!) – I.e. they won’t reopen until the next stage of restrictions easing has been reached. The breakouts in NSW/VIC have meant that hasn’t happened yet. There was one late decision to postpone that step what about a month ago now, but that’s it. I’m not sure where they’ve been inconsistent at all on this particular matter (again not saying their policy position is right or wrong).


On the way in to lockdown, the government claimed we couldn’t be an island and must move in lockstep with NSW.

Then when relaxing restrictions the government changed its tune, by keeping restrictions in place in exceedance of NSW despite us being at a far lower risk and no active cases.

Andrew Barr even made the ridiculous claim that if people wanted to play pokies, they could travel to Queanbeyan to do so. A message which flies in the face of all sense and medical advice. We want people to engage in less unnecessary travel in the region, not more.

Then with the uptick in cases in NSW, the government changed their minds about the scheduled relaxation of restrictions, despite the only ACT cases being imported from Victoria.

And then just to top it off, Barr last week was claiming that if NSW enacted more restrictions due to the increased case numbers, the ACT would have to follow suit.

You know, because we can’t be an island and all that.

About as consistent as Melbourne weather.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.