22 March 2022
Exactly two years ago, WA’s pubs, bars, taverns and restaurants fell silent. It wasn’t a case of a pub with no beer, but something far bleaker – pubs with no patrons.
From 23 March 2020, licensed venues closed for on-site consumption, marking the first of a series of restrictions that would come to define the hospitality industry over the course of the pandemic.
For the last two years, WA’s hospitality operators have navigated countless trading restrictions that produce emotions ranging from frustration to despair.
Running a pub, hotel, restaurant, function venue or small bar has never been as simple or romantic as one might imagine. The myriad of rules, red tape and regulations quickly bring hopeful entrepreneurs back down to earth.
Those owning, operating or working in service-based industries such as hospitality have been responsible for implementing almost all COVID-related public health measures and after two years, they are weary and jaded.
The frustration expressed by many is there has always been an enthusiasm to rapidly impose restrictions, but no such urgency to have them removed.
In addition to border closures, restrictions have included seated service requirements, various capacity limits, mask wearing mandates, COVID safety plans, an obligation to only serve liquor with a meal and vaccination requirements for staff and patrons. At different stages there were also bans on singing and dancing, along with strict limits on events such as weddings and wakes, which saw many cancelled.
By any measure, WA has been incredibly successful in containing COVID-19, due in large part to these various restrictions, when there was a justifiable case that they would help stop the spread and prevent the loss of many lives.
The sacrifices made by the hospitality industry has kept the community safe and allowed other industries like the resources sector to thrive, but it has come at a great cost.
Balance sheets have been decimated, jobs lost, careers eroded, debt has accumulated and some businesses have closed while many others are anxious about the months ahead.
A cautious approach was warranted when the Delta strain threatened to overwhelm our health system, but the situation has now changed. We must be willing to alter our approach to suit the reality of today.
The arrival of Omicron, coupled WA’s very high vaccination rate, has seen the threat of the virus reduce substantially.
Cases have risen in WA, as expected, but we have not seen a dramatic rise in hospitalisations, ICU admissions or deaths.
It places WA in a unique position and allows for the removal of restrictions in a way that was not afforded to other states or territories.
With WA’s peak predicted to be mid last week and now “sometime” in the future, WA’s hospitality industry is incurring damage each day with no fixed end date in sight.
For hospitality businesses to be given a fighting chance to recover some losses before entering the quieter winter months, restrictions need to be urgently removed.
Over the course of the pandemic and indeed since Federation, WA has done things a little differently. Running our own race has sometimes attracted criticism, but we have generally been successful for doing so.
Those who serve you at your local don’t want to ask for your vaccination certificate, they don’t want to tell you to put on a mask and they don’t want to check that you are sitting down before you sip your drink. They just want to get back to providing hospitality and WA is in a position where we can allow them to do just that.
Further information: David De Garis 0412 577 567