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.
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.
“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.”