Australian Hotelier May 2020

Page 1


Vol. 37 No. 04 - May 2020

Celebrating Pubs The people, venues and communities that make up such a beloved industry


Your go-to hub for resources, news, support and insights for pub professionals throughout the COVID-19 crisis.


Thanks to our valued partners







10 Business model pivot: The pubs that

6 News: What’s happening in pubs

turned into mini markets.

across Australia.

14 Ed’s The lifeblood of the community: The venues

26 Design & Build: For some operators, there

24 Publican profile: Simone Douglas takes

30 Tales from the Top: Kasie Ferguson takes us


that mean so much to their towns.

is no better time to renovate than now.

her ‘seriously social’ ethos to The Duke

through what a day at The Railway Hotel

of Brunswick.

in Parkes entails during the shutdown.

Editor’s Note



is beloved by the Australian public, and has

the last six weeks

spent the last six weeks showing its dynamism

has been one of the

and adaptive nature. In this edition you’ll find


toughest things the

a feature on how pubs provide communities

Australian pub sector

with more than just cold beer, but are in fact


has undergone in its

the hub of those places (p. 14-22). We also

entire history. In New South Wales alone,

look at pubs that adapted quickly to trade

the closures have seen roughly 70,000

restrictions (p 10). We also have a profile

people either stood down or let go from

on publican Simone Douglas, who places

their employment within hotels. Owners

the social side of hotels above all else (p.

and operators are mostly trading at a

24), and publican Kasie Ferguson takes us

loss, with the pressure of taxes, license

through what a day at her pub looks like now

fees, mortgages and utility bills not being

(on p 30). Also, make sure to check out our

serviced by the limited amount of trade

#StrongerTogether resource hub, for plenty

their venues are allowed to pursue.

of support and advice throughout this crisis.

And yet through all the uncertainty, the tide now seems to be turning. The restrictions

Stay safe.

imposed on Australian society seem to have worked in flattening the curve, and there now

Vanessa Cavasinni

seems hope that life can slowly start to return to

P: 02 8586 6201

normal. At the end of April, the NT Government


announced it would allow pubs to slowly start sign of things to come for other states as well.

‣ The people behind the pub

With hope at the forefront of my mind,

‣ Post-crisis business models

this issue is a celebration of an industry that

1yr (11 issues) for $95.00 (inc GST) 2yrs (22 issues) for $152.00 (inc GST) – Saving 20% 3yrs (33 issues) for $199.00 (inc GST) – Saving 30% To subscribe and to view other overseas rates visit or Call: 1800 651 422 (Mon – Fri 8:30-5pm AEST) Email: DISCLAIMER: This publication is published by Food and Beverage Media Pty Ltd (the “Publisher”). Materials in this publication have been created by a variety of different entities and, to the extent permitted by law, the Publisher accepts no liability for materials created by others. All materials should be considered protected by Australian and international intellectual property laws. Unless you are authorised by law or the copyright owner to do so, you may not copy any of the materials. The mention of a product or service, person or company in this publication does not indicate the Publisher’s endorsement. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Publisher, its agents, company officers or employees. Any use of the information contained in this publication is at the sole risk of the person using that information. The user should make independent enquiries as to the accuracy of the information before relying on that information. All express or implied terms, conditions, warranties, statements, assurances and representations in relation to the Publisher, its publications and its services are expressly excluded save for those conditions and warranties which must be implied under the laws of any State of Australia or the provisions of Division 2 of Part V of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and any statutory modification or re-enactment thereof. To the extent permitted by law, the Publisher will not be liable for any damages including special, exemplary, punitive or consequential damages (including but not limited to economic loss or loss of profit or revenue or loss of opportunity) or indirect loss or damage of any kind arising in contract, tort or otherwise, even if advised of the possibility of such loss of profits or damages. While we use our best endeavours to ensure accuracy of the materials we create, to the extent permitted by law, the Publisher excludes all liability for loss resulting from any inaccuracies or false or misleading statements that may appear in this publication. Copyright © 2020 - Food and Beverage Media Pty Ltd

to re-open mid-May, and many hope it is the

4 | Australian Hotelier

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pro-active for clients as the hospitality industry works through these challenging times.


worth of pub transactions sold nationally across 2018 and 2019


pub properties and businesses sold nationally across 2018 and 2019


collective years of experience throughout our national team

With major announcements to come, and in the midst of negotiating numerous pub transactions, the JLL Pubs team continues to stand as


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WESTERN AUSTRALIA Sean Flynn +61 412 779 987

Achieve Ambitions

Sparkke brewer Carla Naismith getting ready to make deliveries.


When life gives you lemons… Publicans across the country have made the most of the limited trading opportunities left to them during the last several weeks of shutdown. Here’s a small glimpse of how Aussie hotels have adapted to the new environment.

Sparkke at the Whitmore in Adelaide is bringing its signature drinks and meals to you, from it’s eye-catching delivery van. It’s bottled and canned alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase throughout Australia, with free shipping!

Takeaway and delivery aren’t the only ways pubs can rack up some revenue at the moment. With an avid patronage, the Reilly Group is selling merchandise across it’s three inner-Sydney pubs – Sydney Park Hotel, The Henson and White Cockatoo Hotel – including caps and t-shirts.

Staples are sorted at the East Vilage Hotel in Balmain! The pub’s fridge is stacked with everything you need for a last minute snack, like cold meats and cheeses. It also is stocked with a range of weekly ready-to-heat meals, such as lasagne or shepherd’s pie.

6 | Australian Hotelier

The Stag & Hunter Hotel in Newcastle is known for its live music offering. To keep engaging with its music-loving patrons, the hotel has been updating signage on its corner-facing façade with song lyrics appropriate to the times. Patrons are able to suggest lyrics via social media.

The Guildford Hotel is offering a decent chunk of its menu via takeaway and delivery, including from its very own Pitmaster! Smoked Meat packs are available, and for an extra taste of the Guildford Hotel, it’s house-made rubs and sauces have been bottled for purchase as well.

The Elephant Hotel in Brisbane, part of the Riversdale Group, shared this poignant message with its patrons across social media, not long after the shutdown w as announced. Since then, they’ve been sharing staff appreciation posts and sending shout-outs to local businesses.

The Auburn Hotel in Melbourne is using its relationship with produce suppliers to offer it’s patrons take-home packs that can be picked up directly from The Auburn’s kitchen. The meat pack, pictured, includes premium cuts of eye fillet, rib-eye, Italian pork sausages, bacon and more.

May 2020 | 7


Preparing for the future trading landscape After several weeks of great pressure and uncertainty, the pub sector has some cause for hope at re-opening sooner rather than later, with the announcement made late last month that pubs in the Northern Territory would re-open in mid-May. With signs that restrictions across Australia have helped flatten the curve, overtures out of Canberra and from various state governments suggest that pubs can look forward to opening sooner than the initial projection of September or October. With the tide beginning to turn in the crisis, the Australian Hotels

• No more sharing plates

Association is now focusing on what the on-premise environment

• No communal snack food

will look like on the other side of the shutdown.

• No more communal cutlery containers

“What we’re proposing, especially as it relates to staff and

• Floor markings for bar service

patrons’ health and safety, are a set of measures that we think

• Electronic payments where possible

go towards mitigating risk, and we would anticipate governments

• Staff to be trained in proper hygiene methods

endorsing this or setting out exactly what they require,” National

• Floor markings and/or bollards to assist in orderly bar service.

CEO Stephen Ferguson told Australian Hotelier.

• Bistro tables to be repositioned to ensure minimum distance of

With pubs in each state likely to re-open at different stages

1.5 metres.

and under different restrictions, the AHA is preparing training

The AHA has also endorsed the COVIDSafe app released by the

modules, like those unveiled in Western Australia recently, around

Federal Government which has been downloaded by three million

hygiene and increased health and safety standards. Those in WA

Australians. Ferguson has appealed for more people to download

must now be undertaken before a venue can re-open.

the app to help hasten the return to trading.

The AHA and its members are also now looking at venue

“Our aim is to be able to serve people a cold beer as soon as

features that will need to be adapted to reduce the amount of

we can. To do that, we think to give the Government the greatest

contact, and to reduce the chances of a second outbreak of the

comfort [in loosening restrictions], it’s obvious that we need to hit

virus. These include:

this forty per cent mark of people having downloaded the app.

• Complimentary hands sanitiser at key points around venues • Sterilisation of bar and bistro tables and chairs after patrons leave • Constant cleaning of communal items like ATMs

“That’s the number one thing that people can do to help. So any hotelier who wants to open, any staff member who’s anxious to get back to employment, anyone who wants to have a cold beer, please help by downloading the app.”

WE ARE #STRONGERTOGETHER COVID-19 has had a major impact on the pub sector, but our industry is finding ways to survive and trade while planning for better days ahead. #StrongerTogether is the go-to hub for resources, news, support and insights for pub professionals. In partnership with industry stakeholders JLL Hotels & Hospitality, Kaddy, Lion, Warner’s Gin, CUB and Paul Kelly Design, the resource hub brings operators the latest support and advice, government updates, venue operations and product offers to get your business through the pandemic. The resource hub contains information as varied as: the many ways workers can find government support throughout the crisis; engaging your patrons throughout the shutdown; examples of venues that have made the most of the limited trading environment; and supplier initiatives to help their on-premise partners. The #StrongerTogether resource hub is updated a few times a week, so make sure to check it regularly at

8 | Australian Hotelier

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Business operations

A one-stop shop Within days of the nation-wide pub shutdown being announced, many pubs across the country pivoted their businesses not only to takeaway, but also as hybrid mini-markets. THE INCREDIBLY restricted trading

Martin Short of W. Short Hotels has

conditions that pub operators found

transformed several of his local pubs into

themselves in at the end of March,

local essential convenience stores in a bid

while devastating, has also brought out

to keep staff and suppliers working.

the creativity and adaptability in some

Pubs, clubs and bars across Australia

and panic at the supermarkets,” said Short, CEO of W. Short Hotel Group. “The initiative has been created in a bid to safely help our communities, provide a level of convenience and

publicans, who quickly took advantage

have been forced to close their doors in

comfort to locals and keep people in a

of the takeway and delivery options still

a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19,

job during these unsettling and ever-

available to them.

but Short has re-purposed the public

changing times.”

Not only did many pivot to a takeway

bars at the Tudor Hotel in Redfern

The group has also teamed up with a

food and alcohol service, as well

and Royal Hotel in Leichhardt into

butcher and a baker and is partnering

focusing on their retail liquor offerings,

convenience stores.

with the pub’s suppliers and local

but several operators took note of the

The new stores sell daily essentials such

producers to try and ensure continuity

shortages of staples in supermarkets –

as fresh food, pantry staples, toilet paper

and keep the quality of the products

who would’ve thought there’d be so much

and sanitiser, as well as beer, wine and

available high.

panic over toilet paper – and decided

spirits to help provide some comfort to the

to take advantage of their existing

local communities.

supplier relationships to create overnight convenience stores.

10 | Australian Hotelier

“This is a chance for the community to support and buy local and avoid the crowds

“It’s our attempt to keep staff and suppliers in a job and provide convenience and comfort to the local communities we love,” said Short.

Essentials Express Bella Vista

Business operations

TIPS FROM THE MOMENTO HOSPITALITY TEAM ON ADAPTING YOUR BUSINESS Think creatively: Hospitality is more than just serving food and beverages in your venue – it extends to helping your community enjoy your hospitality at home. Assess your resources: You have kitchens, chefs, motivated staff and expertise – look at applying these resources differently to fit the need of the market right now. Keep the energy up: Share what you are doing with your staff and community via social to help them see that positive things are happening so they stay hopeful and engaged with you/ your business. Focus on your strengths: Every venue or operation has things they are well known for so lean-in on these. If you are known for your chicken schnitzel, then sell the crumbed chicken schnitzel along with your special sauce etc. Package it together so customers can replicate your famous recipes at home. Don’t be silly: We are still in the grip of a growing pandemic, customer safety has to be the number one concern. Wear the PPE, limit or eliminate contact and don’t flout the rules – or you could ruin it for everyone and even costs lives.

REVENUE RAISER Momento Hospitality is doing more than $20,000 in sales through Essentials Express per day.

We believe that this is a vital role for hotels, bars and restaurants to play in serving their communities, it really is a win/win/win in these uncertain times. - Jason Jelicich, Momento Hospitality A drive-through offer helps keep contact to a minimum at Essentials Express

May 2020 | 11

Business operations

Drive-through grocery run

The Royal Hotel’s bottle shop

Meanwhile, Momento Hospitality has turned its warehouse behind the Bella Vista Hotel in Sydney’s north-west into a drive-through one-stop shop for alcohol, fresh produce, prepared meals and grocery staples – and have been doing a booming trade through it. Essentials Express at Bella is an initiative thought up by Momento Hospitality’s group executive chef, Sam Youngs. With the large warehouse space behind the hotel, he thought up the concept to use produce/stock the hotel had on hand before the closures, to create a drive-through shop for food, alcohol and essentials like toilet paper. The concept has taken off with the local community, who have found another outlet to grab the essentials they need which are currently out of stock in supermarkets. The initiative has also kept some of the hotel’s staff in employment. “So far this initiative has kept over a dozen staff employed as well as moving through stock for our

Bearing public safety in mind, the operation

suppliers, who are all very appreciative in these

includes a drive-through, no-touch set-up where

tough times,” stated Jason Jelicich, CX Director

customers do not have to get out of their cars.

for the group.

They simply fill out a form with what they want, and staff pack their order and bring it to their car.

This is our attempt to keep staff and suppliers in a job and provide

All payments are done by EFTPOS, so there is no handling of cash. Popular items include toilet paper, meat packs and pre-batched cocktails. Fresh pasta is also a popular choice, which has kept some of the hotel’s chefs employed in the kitchen. “The other benefit of this initiative is that we have been able to run-down our cool-rooms, which were full to the brim when the closures were announced, saving tens of thousands in wastage,”


explains Jelicich.

and comfort

in exceptional revenue for the current trading

to the local communities we love. - Martin Short, W. Short Hotels

In the process, the hotel has also brought environment. In the first four days of operating Essentials Express, sales were close to or exceeded $20,000 each day. Revenue continues on an upward trajectory as more of the local community becomes aware of the service. Jelicich sees this as a great way for hotel operators to keep their businesses going and staff employed, and encourages others to get involved. “We believe that this is a vital role for hotels, bars and restaurants to play in serving their communities, it really is a win/win/win in these

Fresh produce available at Royal Hotel

12 | Australian Hotelier

uncertain times.”

Win your venue or bottle shop $150 to spend on Kaddy 10 vouchers to giveaway!

To enter, visit and complete ALL three steps! Competition closes 30th May.



The lifeblood of the community Listen here to our audio file

For most pubs, the overarching goal is to connect with community; and while traditionally, Aussie watering holes have been the meeting place of the town, today that ability to create a sense of belonging for locals isn’t always as easy as it sounds. By Nicole Webb.

IT TAKES time, effort and ongoing commitment from publicans and

Revving up the town

their teams to create a community hub. Each of these Australian


hotels and pub groups has managed to make a unique mark on their

At the Collie Hotel in western NSW, they’ve taken to

communities, many becoming the lifeblood of their towns — giving

holding Kingswood Days for all the Kingswood owners

back as much, if not more, than they get.

in the area. “Friends from Orange were making the trip here anyway with their cars and we knew that there were a few in sheds around the district, so we thought it would be a great opportunity for some locals to bring theirs out and have a look at some others,” publicans Emily and Tom Hancock said. “This year was much bigger, with Kingswoods coming from far and wide. It was amazing how many people came just for the day, away from home.” The Collie has also held two drought-buster events, and has been the base for a Community to Community Hay Run from Mystic Park in Victoria. “With 13 trucks arriving in the morning to meet the locals receiving the hay, the Collie cooked a big breakfast for everyone before they headed off to local properties to unload. They met back at the Collie in the afternoon for a meet and greet, entertained by two different bands Kingswood Day at Collie Hotel

playing into the evening,” Emily describes. In these dry times, The Collie knows the value of community involvement and being able to provide an

We have become a place for people to come when the dust storms hit, and they don’t want to be at home. People can talk about their problems, hear from others and get away from the dry at their own house. Emily Hancock, Collie Hotel

outlet for so many local farmers, who’re struggling with the ongoing drought. “We have become a place for people to come when the dust storms hit, and they don’t want to be at home. People can talk about their problems, hear from others and get away from the dry at their own house. With free events, these families know they can come in and it won’t cost them to order a meal.” For the Collie, the exposure and support from outside the village of just 39 people has been crucial to continue trading.

14 | Australian Hotelier


Osbourne Hotel is a proud supporter of the defence forces

ANZAC honour OSBOURNE HOTEL, Brisbane, Qld At the Fitzgibbons Group’s inner Brisbane venue, the Osbourne Hotel, a key event each year is focused on the mental wellbeing of Australia’s defence force. This year will be the third year the hotel will fundraise on ANZAC Day for Survive to Thrive Nation. They run programs to coach

The whole team loves participating and contributing to the success of the events and fundraising initiative, so it is wonderful for team morale and sense of purpose. Cathy Fitzgibbons, Fitzgibbons Group

current and former service personnel and families to help them achieve independence and overcome mental health adversities, to successfully transition back into civilian life. ANZAC Day at the Osbourne aims to raise enough funds in 2020 to put at least four people through the coaching program. “Without that close connection to your local and wider community – whatever form that takes, in whatever region you are located in – I am not sure firstly how the business will work,and secondly how you would derive the tremendous satisfaction we feel, from being a part of that community,” states Cathy Fitzgibbons. “The whole team loves participating and contributing to the success of the events and fundraising initiative, so it is wonderful for team morale and sense of purpose. It connects us with the community and also gives us an opportunity to create a deeper relationship with our business partners. People tend to open up more about their lives when you hold these events.” Supporting Survive To Thrive Nation

May 2020 | 15


Foundational support MOMENTO HOSPITALITY, Sydney NSW For Momento Hospitality — which has the Bella Vista Hotel, Mullane’s Hotel, Hillside Hotel, Castle Hill and The Governor

The arrival of the first train at Linville Station in 1910

Hotel in Sydney’s north-west — its core value of giving back has seen a dedicated focus through its charity organisation, The

Recreating the past

Momento Foundation. It provides assistance to underprivileged


members of the community, like women’s community shelters,

The historic Linville Hotel is located in a tiny town of less than

the Cancer Council and Ronald McDonald House. As well as

100 people on the 161km Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, the longest

providing financial assistance, many of Momento’s staff volunteer

in Australia. It is situated opposite the old railway station which,

their free time at fundraising events, as well as cooking for

while not in use, still stands proud.

families in need at Ronald McDonald House. The Momento Foundation also supports the University

When new owners Leah and Paul Squire decided to renovate the old pub, they knew they had something special on their hands

of Technology, Sydney to assist disadvantaged students in

with an incredible image of the first train arriving into Linville in

completing their further education studies. The foundation’s

1910. They decided to turn it into wallpaper for their saloon bar.

most recent collaboration has been with Macquarie University

“We were doing a complete renovation and when we were

in a program designed to improve the drinking culture in

putting the wallpaper up, we thought, wouldn’t it be so much fun

Australia, particularly with a focus on our youth.

and also special for the whole town to come together and re-

For Momento Hospitality, its key audiences are their primary supporters: from young adults, to corporates, families and the local community. “The majority of our hotel visitors also belong to groups

enact this really special moment in Australian history.” This year the anniversary falls on a Saturday, so the pub plans to celebrate again with a full-weekend heritage festival. With a larger community surrounding them on cattle stations and

like sporting clubs, so one of our main initiatives is to support

properties, Leah says it’s important in a region like this for the

these with sponsorships,” states Marcello Colosimo, CEO of

pub to be a meeting point.

Momento Hospitality. “Giving back to the community is important, we value the support they provide to us and this is a way we can show our

“It’s the hub of the community and people are incredibly proud of the region’s heritage, with a lot of family history in the area. I believe that local communities that share together, grow together.”

appreciation. Our aim is to bring people together to create great memories.”

Giving back to the community is important, we value the support they provide to us and this is a way we can show our appreciation Marcello Colosimo, Momento Hospitality

The recreation of the original photo above

I believe that local communities that share together, grow together. The Momento Foundation funded university research into drinking culture

16 | Australian Hotelier

Leah Squire, Linville Hotel

CUB, in partnership with the AHA, is committed to help raise $1 million for pubs and clubs through the For the Love of Your Local campaign. This will help support them during these challenging times.



Go pink or go home GLEN HOTEL, Brisbane Qld For Brian and Cathy Fitzgibbons, owners and operators at The Glen Hotel and Osbourne Hotel, being involved in the community The Glen Hotel has raised almost $500k for the National Breast Cancer Foundation over the years

“is the very definition of a pub!” A typically suburban hotel in Eight Mile Plains, The Glen has long been recognised as a local hub. “For us it’s simple, the hospitality industry has always played an integral role in fundraising, from the days of chook raffles and

year raising money, with a mammoth total of $490,000 raised over the years.

meat trays to the more complex fundraisers.”

“The day focuses on awareness and the importance of

Supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s research

research, with lots of great speakers, auctions and raffles. We

program with their Go Pink Day lunch each year has, to date,

have fantastic support from our industry partners as well as our

been the Glen’s biggest fundraiser. 2019 was the hotel’s 16th

local community,” Brian and Cathy explained.

Summer skin check sessions MERIVALE, Sydney NSW Merivale decided to make skin checks more accessible for people by having them at their local pubs over the summer, with the mindset that people would be heading there for a weekend drink anyway. As the founding corporate partner of not-forprofit Australian charity, Beard Season, Merivale offered free skin checks at The Newport, Coogee Pavilion and The Collaroy over the warmer months, resulting in the detection of hundreds of potentially dangerous melanomas. The skin checks were performed by trained doctors and nurses in private huts using a revolutionary AI-based screening platform, providing a friendly and relaxed environment for customers to visit some of the best skin specialists in Australia. “As part of the initiative, we also gave those who had a free skin check a free drink at the respective venue, so that guests could grab a beer and have a skin check in the same visit. It’s a great way of getting loyal and new customers to engage with the venue in a different way and encouraging them to look after their health at the same time,” states Jonathan Strickland, general manager of the Coogee Pavilion. Merivale puts great importance on developing connections and relationships with local people, businesses and organisations at all of their venues. “We love our pubs to be a gathering place where guests can come together and enjoy a good time, and at the same time we can use the venues to support and help raise awareness for good causes and educate the local community.”

18 | Australian Hotelier

A skin check hut at The Newport The skin checks were performed by medical professionals

Mullet mania CHELMSFORD HOTEL, Kurri Kurri NSW

for the highest number of mullets in

The Chelmsford Hotel’s famous ‘Mulletfest’

one place!

began in 2018, and has since put them on

“For us it’s important to serve our

the map, capturing attention nationally

community and create a sense of

and around the globe. It was the result of

belonging. We’re certainly not a

a team brainstorming session, when they

profit-motivated business but we

realised the hotel was in financial trouble.

know that we are integral in the fabric

“We knew we had to save the pub, and

of our community.”

given Kurri Kurri has always been known as

For Johnson, knowing her time is

the birthplace of the iconic mullet hairstyle,

spent in a positive way, and knowing

an idea that blokes might like to compare

that her children are part of a community

their mullets came about,” explains owner

that thinks bigger than themselves

and publican, Laura Johnson.

and gives to each other in times of

“Our initial response was, at least we’ll have two entries from our family!” The first event of its kind attracted

Mulletfest supporters

need and to the greater good is what matters. “And we laugh. The mood in the

over 150 entrants, including many from

hotel is palpable when we know that we

interstate, and has since seen Laura

are working for something good. And

trademark the festival, with the 2020

people come along to get involved and

goal of setting a Guinness World Record

celebrate that.”

The mood in the hotel is palpable when we know that we are working for something good. And people come along to get involved and celebrate that. Laura Johnson, Chelmsford Hotel

Jack of all trades BUCKING BULL HOTEL, Coonamble NSW For the Bucking Bull Hotel in Coonamble, NSW – a pub standing in the midst of the worst drought in living memory – owner Scott Richardson says it’s about lifting the spirit of a town that has well and truly had the wind knocked out of its sails. In a town like this, that’s struggling both financially and mentally, he says, a pub becomes a Jack-of-all-trades – the ‘go to’ centre for help of absolutely any kind. “Whether it’s helping patrons read letters, send emails or simply getting a better internet deal. They even come to us for legal advice and we’re always happy to provide an ear to listen.” On Christmas Day, the Bucking Bull provided locals who had nowhere to go with a free baked dinner and beers, so they didn’t have to spend Christmas alone. Locals doing a rain dance

“With over 20 of us, we were one big happy family,” Richardson says. Pubs don’t just serve cold ones, it’s about helping the local community, financially and in many other ways, says Richardson: “Some people need a friendly stable environment where they can feel secure and let their troubles go.” Having owned the hotel for just 18 months, Richardson says he’s taken it from bleeding money to making a small profit, which is all spent on upgrading the grand old girl. The publican also works in the media, a role that has enabled him to help put the Coonamble Rodeo on the map, giving the town national exposure with ten episodes screened on 7Mate to around 400,000 viewers. The program helped raise awareness of the town, promoting the attractions and characters of the region. The Bucking Bull also has a weather camera with images regularly supplied to the Seven Network.

The Coonamble Rodeo

May 2020 | 19


True to each community SOLOTEL, Sydney NSW Solotel, owner of several Sydney pubs, is passionate about creating world class venues that offer a sense of belonging and play an important role in the communities in which they are located. While initiatives are varied depending on each local community, sport is a big focus, with The Albion Hotel in Parramatta partnered with Western Sydney Wanderers; The

The DOB team learning conversational Auslan

Erko Hotel in Erskineville sponsoring the local ice hockey team, The Erksinevillains; and The Bridgeview supporting the local

The DOB family

Cammeray Cricket Club and Willoughby Wild Cats.


The hotels also sponsor a lot of events involving owners

The Duke of Brunswick Hotel in Adelaide, or the DOB as it’s

and their four-legged friends, holding events where they and

affectionately known by its ‘Dob Family’, is built on community

their humans gather to celebrate all things canine. The Sheaf

and creates a second home for many people who’re often not

in Double Bay even has a ‘Dating with Dogs’ event. Family

greeted with the hospitality they might like or should expect, says

events still reign supreme, including Christmas in July, and The

publican Simone Douglas.

Sackville’s Easter event with a petting zoo for the family. At the Bank in Newtown they regularly support the

“Some of the initiatives we have put in place have made us a pub of firsts, or the left-of-centre pub. We are Adelaide’s only

LGBTQIA+ community and are home to the Harbour City

pub with a 100 per cent gluten-free kitchen, and we’ve recently

Bears weekly meet-up and are actively involved in the

announced that we’re also Adelaide’s only pub with a kitchen that

Newtown Festival and Mardi Gras.

is 100 per cent peanut free.”

For pubs to be authentic, a Solotel spokesperson says, they

The Dob is also Adelaide’s first ‘deaf friendly’ pub, with their FOH

must be true to the community in which they are based. It’s all

team trained in conversational Auslan, and will be the first venue in

about creating places where people belong, feel welcome and

the history of the Adelaide Fringe Festival to have one show from

have fun.

every act at their venue performed with an Auslan interpreter.

“This kind of reputation means people want to come to our

“We also provide first responder upgrades on drinks and have

venues, they come to meet friends and family, to watch sport,

done so since Alex and I took over the venue more than two years

eat and drink, watch live music, hang out with their pooches.

ago,” Douglas explains.

“It also brings together diverse and interesting people,

Pubs have always been the central hub of the communities

creating a great vibe and atmosphere in the venues and our staff

they live within, and at their best, they contribute to and create

feel rewarded by working on community events.”

a vibrant ecosystem for the community and a sense of belonging which becomes more and more important as people find themselves increasingly unseen and unheard, the publican says. “The initiatives we have put in place and continue to identify are about creating a safe space for our patrons in line with our mantra, ‘The outside world doesn’t matter here.’” It’s a mantra that’s clearly working. Simone and Alex have grown the business by more than 300 per cent in the last two years, going from employing four staff to a team of 12.

The initiatives we have put in place and continue to identify are about creating a safe space for our patrons. Simone Douglas, Duke of Brunswick Hotel The Queens Cross Hotel decked out for Mardi Gras

20 | Australian Hotelier

Warner’s Distillery, Falls Farm, UK Hospo For Life provides access to psychologists and mental health services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to members of the hospitality industry. We encourage all those associated with the hospitality industry to reach out, foster healthy relationships and connect with each other to create a stronger community. Anyone in our community requiring a free and confidential counselling session is invited to contact us via email at or through our website Very proudly supported by


Inland tourism centre ARMATREE HOTEL, Merrigal NSW Lib and Ash Walker have owned the Armatree Hotel for 13 years and are constantly trying to reinvent what they do and just what a country pub should be. Given the small size and demographic of Armatree, along with agriculture being the primary source of income for the majority of clientele, they’ve tried to create a destination pub, bringing people in from outside the district, while still maintaining a local pub feel. “We’ve been able to achieve this through a variety of ways,

Charitable bartenders

including hosting large concerts where we hire a passenger


train to run a return journey from Dubbo, successfully

Outside of their standard sporting club and charity sponsorship,

tapping into the growing inland tourism market and allowing

The Commerical Hotel’s primary community initiative is ‘Community

‘Freedom Camping’ beside the hotel,” Lib says.

Bartender’, which they created and introduced last September.

The Armatree aims to host one or two larger events per year

Each month they invite a local charity or organisation behind

and in 2019 they held the Armatree Comedy Festival with 550

the bar, to raise money for their cause. While they are behind the

guests and well-known comedians, and the now annual Busby

bar, $1 from every drink and all the proceeds from the night’s

Marou Concert, which attracted over 770 people.

meat raffle, goes back to their organisation.

“The rise of inland tourism has been amazing for us. We

Commercial Hotel general manager, Jimmy Anthon, says so far,

maintain a nice area of green grass beside the hotel where we

this monthly night has raised between $900-1500 for each group

can host up to 16-18 caravans or motorhomes and if these

and benefitted community co-working group The Exchange, along

travellers don’t need power, we don’t charge them. These

with charities like Black Dog Ride, Little Ray of Giving, Groovy

travellers are very supportive of the hotel and spend money

Booby Bus, Rural Fire Service and Melanoma March.

in the business whilst staying,” says Lib. For the Armatree, it’s a simple equation: “The community

“The social impact of pubs in rural areas really is important; our venue brings together people of all ages, background and interests

needs pubs as much as the pub needs the community. There

to interact. It reduces social isolation and loneliness and is also a

is a mutual respect on both levels in our case.”

positive opportunity to interact with the greater community which

The hotel was awarded ‘Best Bush Pub’ in both 2018 and 2019 at the AHA NSW Awards for Excellence.

sits at the very core of our business. Being involved and supporting them wherever we can, is not only pivotal to the success of the pub, but also our town,” explains Anthon.

The community needs pubs as much as the pub needs the community. There is a mutual respect on both levels in our case. Lib Walker, Armatree Hotel

While these initiatives have seen the hotel benefit from increased trade on a standard week night, more importantly the hotel has seen increased exposure to different local organisations and demographics, as well as a great reaction and increased engagement on social media. “In turn, we believe the initiative has generated overall goodwill in the community and a trust in our venue.”

“The social impact of pubs in rural areas really is important…It reduces social isolation and loneliness and is also a positive opportunity to interact with the greater community.” - Jimmy Anthon, Commercial Hotel

22 | Australian Hotelier

Lion is proud to Support Your Local through this uncertain time and into recovery

Making draught beer available and safe to sell

Taking back unused kegs

Readying tap systems for re-opening

We’re distributing 1.25L ‘growler’ PET bottles to pubs and clubs nationally to help sell draught beer. 10,000 growlers and 500 dispensers are already on their way to venues in NSW

We’ve credited 4,460 customers a total of $23.5 million for 85,279 kegs, with many more to come

We’ve cleaned 10,000 beer couplers and taps to help some 500 pubs get ready to re-open once social distancing measures are lifted


How Simone Douglas stays seriously social The Duke of Brunswick Hotel

Adelaide publican, CEO, executive director and author, Simone Douglas, shares her business insights with Australian Hotelier’s Brydie Allen.

WHEN SIMONE Douglas started in the industry at 18 years old, by her own admission, she was terrified of people. “I thought one of two things would happen. I would die, or I would cure myself, and clearly the second one is what happened.” Years later, Douglas thought she had gotten out of the industry

[The] first time that you actually unlock the venue, turn off the alarm and walk behind the bar, you’re like, huh, that’s right...This is what home feels like.

for good after switching careers and becoming a mother. But that changed when she was looking for office space for her social

Douglas could be described as a jack of all trades in this way,

media business, and came across the site of the now thriving Duke

having a significant range of skills and knowledge that can be

of Brunswick Hotel in Adelaide.

applied across all areas of a business. Her insights have the

“I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I got given the keys to the pub. There’s no other way to explain it. First time that you

potential to provide great learnings for both regular trade, and the current new normal caused by the pandemic.

actually unlock the venue, turn off the alarm and walk behind the bar, you’re like, huh, that’s right...This is what home feels like,”

Pre-pandemic pub life

Douglas said.

The heritage-listed building of the Duke of Brunswick Hotel was

That welcoming feeling of home is something that Douglas brings to all her business ventures. Not only is she a publican, she’s also the CEO of Social Media AOK, executive director of BNI

originally built in 1858. Today, it’s not just a pub, but a business hub, event space, and core part of the community. “We’re very focused on being community driven, but community

Adelaide North, and author of the book Seriously Social. Through

driven in a bit of a quirky way. I think that every pub owner and

all of these roles, she describes her job as helping to foster

every publican is community driven, it’s intrinsic to your success,”

emotional connections that contribute to business success.

Douglas said.

24 | Australian Hotelier

“We create a home for people that wouldn’t normally have a safe welcoming place as home.” In pushing to create this kind of pub, Douglas has made the kitchen 100 per cent gluten- and nutfree, so guests can dine without allergy concerns. The pub is also South Australia’s first deaf-friendly venue, with all staff being trained in conversational Auslan, and is involved with the LGBTQIA+


community as well. “The outside world doesn’t matter here and that’s the story and the vision that we teach the

Douglas’s first book,

staff. The conversations that we have are always

than just banging on about the latest special or how

Seriously Social, is

about how we want to be the soft place to fall

much their schnitzel costs... they’re the ones that

named after her

for people, as opposed to the place that is not

are going to be really successful.

approach in all of her

interested in them as human beings and only

“We’re getting a lot of feedback right now from

business ventures,

interested in how much money they can put over

people who follow our page, about how much

which is to be as

the bar,” Douglas explained.

they appreciate how positive all of our posts

social online as they

are, how we’re still having fun and being a bit

are in real life.

“That’s reflected in the way that our patrons engage with us even now we’re closed. They’re really

cheeky. So we’re actually providing a contact and

“It’s packed full of

attached to the pub, to the staff, to what’s happening

a framework that allows people to think that there

practical application

with the staff, and it’s really lovely to see because

will be a new normal on the other side; that they’re

and examples.

that’s when you can see that the community that

not trapped in this forever, and I think that that’s

There’s absolutely

you’ve woven together over the last couple of years

really important.”

no jargon in it and

has actually got a life of its own now.”

In the midst of the pandemic, some venues

it is basically the

have been making the most of a bad situation and

road map that I

Doing business in a shutdown

using the time closed to tackle maintenance and

used to build all of

The Duke of Brunswick may not be trading as

improvement to-do lists. Douglas said that social

my businesses on

it usually would, but there are some things that

media should be high on these lists for venues,

social media, but

continue. Connecting to the community and their

because potential patrons will remember when

explained in plain

usual customers is key, and that’s being done both

things go back to normal.

English so that

in person and virtually. Like many pubs, the Duke of Brunswick is doing

“Just because you’re not operating as normal right

people can make

now, doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting the

it work for them,”

takeaway orders in the evening. On top of this,

runs on the board that are going to allow you to fire

Douglas said.

they also offer glasses of wine to take away in jam

on all cylinders on the other side,” Douglas said.

jars, ready-made meals for pre-order, and bespoke

“Social is one thing that you’ve got control over.

“Whether it’s setting goals, or your

meat trays. This is all documented on their social

It’s easy to edit, to start posts and start having those

content plan, or

media, with posts being very “people-to-people

conversations with people. And it’s something that you

working out how to

orientated”, showcasing their offering but also the

can do that is low cost, because it’s just a time cost

get the most out of

humans that make it all possible.

and with a lot of us currently employing staff under

LinkedIn, or how to

JobKeeper and bringing staff back, we have time.

get your personal or

Douglas said this is important for business at all times, but especially in today’s climate. “Social media usage has gone up a ridiculous

“We’ve got time for them to be really evaluating

your business brand

stuff, being creative, and finding a tone of voice and

right, there will be

amount during the current lockdown environment.

a content mix that actually works for the venue.

chapters in that

I think that what social media allows you to do is to

Then when we do get to reopen as normal, we can

book that will help

start relationships and conversations with people

just really fire that up because we’ve been testing it

you to get there.”

who don’t know you yet, to a point that they feel

all this time.”

interested enough to then visit your venue, or support your business,” Douglas said. “People who are prepared to be a little bit authentic and share more of themselves rather

Regardless of where you start, what’s important

A second book is set to follow later this

to remember is that we’re all in this together right

year, described as

now. As Douglas said: “We’re a very relationship

being “the next level”

driven industry, and I think that will continue.”

to Seriously Social.

May 2020 | 25

Design & Build

The sports bar at Baringa Tavern needed some acoustic tweaks

THERE’S NO doubt that the shutdown has been a massive blow to the pub industry, as venues have had to severely restrict their trading, or close up shop completely. But some operators have found a small silver lining in this period – taking advantage of closed venues for renovation projects, both big and small. At Iris Capital, renovation projects that were slated across six of their venues in New South Wales in the next six to twelve months, have been pushed forward so as to take advantage of the venues being shut. Included in these projects is a major renovation of the famed Hotel Steyne on the Manly waterfront. Work on restoring the hotel’s heritage façade began within a fortnight of Baringa Tavern first opened in October 2019

A silver lining While trading restrictions have been a bitter pill to swallow for on-premise venues, some operators are taking advantage of the shutdown to get renovation projects under way in their pubs. 26 | Australian Hotelier

the shutdown taking place, with the other stages of major internal renovations to follow. “We’ve taken advantage of a bad situation. We’ve got scaffolding up in front of the entire façade, and have begun the restoration to bring it back to its former glory,” explains Iris Capital CEO Sam Arnaout. “The next stages are to roll out the internal refurbishment works, which is a total top-down renovation of the entire venue, and the repositioning of the accommodation into boutique hotel rooms.” Having brought forward this massive renovation of Hotel Steyne, Arnaout has ensured that the work is done in stages so that certain parts of the venue could trade if the lockdown was lifted in the midst of the works. “If we’re allowed to trade throughout any part of it, the build is staged in such a way that we can take advantage of opening it up in stages.”

SMALLER PROJECTS Not all renovation projects taken on at the moment are quite so ambitious or comprehensive. Cash flow is obviously a major problem at the moment, so other operators have taken on low-

Design & Build

cost projects that have taken a backseat to trading in the past. The Baringa Tavern on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast opened at the end of October 2019. Trading pre-lockdown had been doing very well, but co-owner Scott Armstrong of Sunshine Coast Hotels (the hotel is also part-owned by Richard Deery of the Storey Bridge Hotel) noticed that there were some acoustic issues in the sports bar. The lockdown provided the best time to address the issue, with new acoustic panelling added to the ceiling, as well as the vinyl flooring replaced with carpet. “Given the TAB and sports offer, acoustics are very important to make sure our patrons have appropriate sound levels for their favourite sports,” explains Armstrong.

Facade restoration at Hotel Steyne

“We were going to do this anyway but it certainly presented us with an ideal opportunity during shutdown as we had both ceilings and floor coverings to contend with. We took about four days to finalise the work so it was beneficial in this instance to be closed.” Renovation projects have also been used as a way to keep staff employed, in conjunction with the JobKeeper allowance. At The Downs Hotel in Toowoomba, a two-staged rejuvenation of the pub’s timber-cladding façade and an upgrade of the beer garden facilities had begun just before the shutdown was enacted. Since then, Simon Thompson and his team have taken on the first stage of works themselves, rather than bringing

The time for DAs? While much has been made of the increasingly long wait times it takes to put a DA through local council and get it approved – currently between 6-12 months in many metropolitan areas – the hope is that with such little economic activity on the horizon at the moment, LGAs would be more responsive to any DAs you were looking to lodge for your venue. Paul Kelly has recently lodged a DA, and is viewing it as a test case as to how the council reacts to development proposals throughout these extraordinary times. “This will be the test to see how friendly our counterparts at Council are. The smart move would be for the typical six-month turnaround for a DA to be fast-tracked. If someone wants to do some work at the moment, I reckon council should be behind it.”

in a sub-contractor. “We had started to do stage one prior to the shutdown. The shutdown made us change tack

Staff at The Downs Hotel painting its facade

somewhat in terms of employing a painter, for example. We have done what we can with myself and the full-time staff a few hours a week, then selling takeaway pub meals on Friday and Saturday night under the JobKeeper scheme.” While larger projects at The Downs Hotel are postponed for the moment, smaller jobs are all getting done while the venue is closed to patrons. “We have put a hold on the stage two beer garden upgrades until we have clarity on coming out of the shutdown period and what that will look like. We have instead looked at odd jobs like re-staining bistro tables and painting the kitchen while there is no venue traffic to compete with,” states Thompson.

May 2020 | 27

Baringa Tavern


ASSESSING THE BUSINESS This is also the best time to make a critical assessment of your business model – what has worked in the past and what hasn’t, and what you think the model will need to look like in the future. Dr Jana Matthews, director of the Australian Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, suggests that venue operators should be using the enforced shutdown as a time to make a clinical assessment of their business models, and to find ways for the business to improve once trading returns to normal. “Sports teams practice all week, and then they play on game day. For venues every day is game day. You don’t really have much time to step back and think about the practice of the fundamentals,” says Dr Matthews. “The good news, if there’s any about this hiatus, is that it’s enabled everybody to have some time-out. To actually look out what they’ve been doing, what they need to be doing, what people’s preferences might be going forward, and how they’re going to respond and set themselves up for a rebound.”

Sports teams practice all week, and then they play on game day. For venues every day is game day. You don’t really have much time to step back and think about the practice of the fundamentals. Dr Jana Matthews, Australian Centre for Business Growth

Design consultant Paul Kelly agrees. His business saw a quick drop-off of new projects in the immediate aftermath of the shutdown, but with a few

“Gaming has been so strong for the last ten years

weeks for operators to assess their business models,

that it would be logical to make sure that when this

he and his team at Paul Kelly Design have been

is over the rooms capitalise on their potential,”

tasked with three different jobs on gaming offerings.

stated Kelly. He suggests that operators start thinking about

The new facade of The Downs Hotel

what their new operating model will look like when venues can re-open, with the assumption that patrons are going to be a little bit wary of being too close to one another. Operators should be looking at ways to remain financially viable with a reduced patronage, as people keep social distancing at the forefront of their behaviour. “People aren’t going to want to sit close to other people, the offers you have are going to have to be price-sensitive because there’s not going to be a lot of money around, so it’s a really delicate balance of trying to make these business models work.” There’s a lot for operators to think about, but a small silver lining is getting those renovation projects done now that have been put off in busier times, as Arnaout says. “There’s never a good time for it, but I tell you what, there’s never a better time for it than when you’re closed.”

28 | Australian Hotelier

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Tales from the top

A day in the life With typical pub operations on hold at the moment, Kasie Ferguson takes us through what a day at the Railway Hotel in Parkes entails now. OWNERS AND operators of the Railway Hotel in

8am: We’ll drop the kids off at daycare, and

Parkes, New South Wales, Kasie Ferguson and

Bianca starts cooking pre-orders for our Smoko

Bianca Sheridan, were initially left gobsmacked

Van (off-site catering that is delivered to businesses

by the need to shut down their thriving pub. But

around the Parkes area) and then I’ll go and deliver

having set-up an online ordering system before

them. Before the shutdown you didn’t necessarily

the shutdown was announced, they were left

have to pre-order, but as some of our regular

in the best position to focus their business on

customers have had to close down their sites, we’re

takeaway and delivery – particularly as very few

only taking pre-orders right now.

other pubs or cafes in the area were doing so.

10am: We use the time mid-morning to spruce

Having now honed their pared-back offering

up the pub. In the first couple of weeks it was just

over the last six weeks, with a core group of staff

Bianca and myself and we did a deep clean of the

retained via JobKeeper, Ferguson runs through

whole venue – cleaning every surface in the whole

what a typical day at The Railway Hotel entails for

building. We also were able to re-organise certain

her and her team.

things that we’ve been waiting ten years to do.

30 | Australian Hotelier

Tales from the top

Now that we have a couple of our

spend a couple of hours on admin

staff back due to JobKeeper, we’ve

and running errands. It’s also time to

painted the whole interior of the pub,

pick up the kids from daycare.

and we’ve got some gardening to do

5:30-8:30pm: I stay with the kids

out the back that we’re starting on.

upstairs with help from Bianca’s

So there’s all these little silver linings

mum, while Bianca starts getting the

to keep in mind.

kitchen ready for dinner orders with

11:30am: Lunch service starts.

the team of 2-3 chefs. At around

We open our online ordering, so we

7pm, if need be I come help put

have our doors open from 11:30am.

with deliveries. On the busier nights,

People can pick-up their orders or we

there’s one person that mans the

can deliver them around Parkes, and

phones and the pick-ups, while

to our regulars who live just outside

Bianca runs the other side of the pass

of town.

getting deliveries out. We have 2-3

2pm: Lunch service ends and we

drivers, and I’m the fourth as needed.

Kasie Ferguson (bottom left) and Bianca Sheridan (middle left) and their Railway Hotel team.

The Smoko Van gearing up for deliveries.

Living the social distancing life When not working, Ferguson gave us a glimpse of what her life entails at the moment. What I’m reading: Don’t have a lot of time, but I’m trying to read Celeste Barber’s new book. What I’m watching: The Last Dance docuseries on Netflix on Michael Jordan. Nightcap of choice?: Red wine. Comfort eating: A lot of pizza out of The Railway’s kitchen. Tips for staying sane with kids in the house: I just converted half of my office into an art and crafts room for the kids. That’s kept them entertained. How are you combatting anxiety?: Drinking red wine! And trying to do a little bit of yoga.

Delivery orders getting ready to be sent out

May 2020 | 31

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