Goulburn's pubs and clubs are reeling from the federal government's shutdown announcement on Monday night.
Soldiers' Club general manager Toni Mitchell said the call was very sudden. Like many club bosses on Monday, she was scurrying to find out what support was available for The Soldiers' 120 workers.
"I wasn't expecting it (the closure) so soon," she told The Post.
"I thought we would close at some point down the track but there's been no time to talk to staff and get our heads around the (economic) stimulation package and where we stand with staff."
Mrs Mitchell felt very sorry for employees who were feeling "overwhelmed" by the decision. She was also awaiting direction from the board, which would meet via phone hook-up on Wednesday.
Club income also halved last week due in part to social distancing guidelines, which required a 1.5 metre separation distance between people. On Friday it was tightened to one person per four square metres at all non-essential indoor gatherings of all sizes, including at pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Numbers in any one area had to be restricted to under one hundred.
Signs were posted on dining tables to make people aware. It meant every second poker machine was turned off, leaving 70 operating and reduced revenue. Twenty casual positions were cut.
Mrs Mitchell said many people thought the club was closed.
"A majority of people cancelled functions. The phones started ringing from last Monday morning and kept going," she said.
"...At the end of the day they were covering themselves as well, especially if their immunity was compromised."
Only some community groups continued meeting at the venue.
During that period, the club was providing sanitiser for patrons and staff were wiping poker machines every hour.
None of that matters now. Mrs Mitchell said it was almost easier to shut than continuing to trade the way they had in the past week. People had stopped coming out but the expenses continued.
The State Government has waived clubs' payroll tax for and deferred poker machine tax but the GM said it would have to be paid at some stage.
Mrs Mitchell hoped all employees would return when the club re-opened.
"They're saying four to six months so we all have to batten down the hatches, cross fingers and hope this (coronavirus) doesn't spread. We don't want it to go further," she said.
Caterer left in limbo
On Monday, The Soldiers' contract caterer, Paul Miller pondered what to do with thousands of dollars worth of food.
"I'll give most of it to the staff because they'll have no income," he told The Post.
"They feel terrible because they don't know what type of assistance will be available."
Mr Miller said the government's $550 fornightly supplement for some jobseekers and other welfare recipients would help but it was unlikely to match their current income.
Sixteen casual posts were cut from his Diggers by the Park opeartion last week, and 16 permanents on Monday.
Restaurant trade was down 75pc over the past two weeks but was now at a standstill.
Mr Miller said the hospitality industry had been hardest hit by the shutdown and there was likely more to come.
2020 has been one mess after another.Elly Spark, The Goulburn Club
"At least we won't be alone and the government will have to support everyone. We'll have thousands of people in the same boat," he said.
Mr Miller took over the club catering several years ago. He and his wife have six children, aged three to 12 and are building a house.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," he said.
"I've been a chef since I was fifteen."
Last drinks at The Workers
Over at The Workers, Gary Scott and Shaun Hart were among a handful of people enjoying a final drink before the noon closure.
"It's devastating," Mr Hart said.
"But when it has to be done, there's no use bucking the system."
The pair regularly enjoy catching up with friends at the venue.
"Socialising is the biggest thing," Mr Scott said.
"You can drink at home but that gets a bit boring. I'll miss the interaction."
Workers CEO Brett Gorham has not returned requests for comment. Goulburn Railway Bowling Club general manager, Scott Cooper, has declined comment at this stage.
'Hibo' shuts doors
Hibernian Hotel licensee Patrick Burke said he was devastated by the government's decision.
"There's been one new case in Goulburn," he said.
"We've adhered to the social distancing measures in seating and numbers in the hotel. With the announcement on Sunday night, I had to tell the staff they didn't have a job. They're the ones affected and they all have rent and bills to pay."
Management held a staff meeting on Sunday to prepare them but Mr Burke said he didn't think the shutdown would happen so quickly.
He believed the decision was a knee-jerk reaction following the large Bondi Beach crowd that gathered on the weekend and pondered whether closures could have been handled on a suburb by suburb basis.
Now, the business will continue providing take-away food.
"We'll take a day by day approach," Mr Burke said.
"It could be six months but I don't want to think that far ahead,
"We have a busy restaurant and hotel that's supported by locals and visitors and I'm just sorry we can't provide that."
A sad moment
The Goulburn Club closed its doors on Friday as a precaution following a third-party contact with coronavirus.
Member Elly Spark said the test subsequently proved negative but nevertheless the club would remain closed directive. The board met on Monday night.
Some 30 volunteers work to keep the historic venue open on Thursday and Friday nights. Saturday nights are reserved for functions.
Mrs Spark said the 1877 club had been shut at various times in its 143-year history but it was sad it had to close again.
The government decision was not unexpected.
"The question is, what happens to our overheads? Council rates, insurance and electricity bills don't go away, so we are looking at a period of no income. It vanishes in a puff of smoke," Mrs Spark said.
"It's part and parcel of the overall thing and you feel sad for everthing, not just the Goulburn Club. 2020 has been one mess after another."
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