Clubs, pubs on a mission to save workers' jobs
MONDAY'S high-noon shut-down of venues and restaurants across the country imposed by the Federal Government as it battles the spread of coronavirus will have massive impacts on the Nothern Rivers.
The secretary-manager of the Casino RSM Club, Neale Genge, said the national closure of clubs, pubs and nightclubs just didn't seem fair for regional areas.
Not only was the Prime Minister's announcement on Sunday a shock to Mr Genge, but it has left the Casino RSM Club management trying to figure out how it can keep its 65 staff on the books during the crisis.
He said management was looking into things like leave arrangements to ride out the closure - but that won't help the casual staff who have now been left without a job.
While Mr Genge said the club's employees still had to pay mortgages and other bills, the closure would cost the Casino economy $50,000 each week through lost wages.
Mr Genge said it "didn't make sense" that shopping centres where people gather and bottle-shops could remain open, but clubs and hotels had to shut, and restaurants were restricted to takeaways only.
"And it's just because people wanted to swim at Bondi," he said, referring to the closure of the iconic beach over the weekend as beach-goers failed to abide by social-distancing rules.
"I can understand if the shut-down was in Sydney, but regional areas should be treated differently."
He said the closure of the club, which has 8000 members, also would impact local suppliers, many of whom he suspects "would go under".
It's a similar story with other major clubs in the region, which generally are among the larger employers in their towns.
CEO of the Ballina RSL Club, Bill Coulter, said the club's main priorities were to support the 130-140 staff and shut-down the building to protect the community.
"We're in the process of liaising with other business that are in need of staffing resources, and we may be able to support that with some of our staff who may need work," he said.
The management at the Cherry Street Sports Club in Ballina also was working hard on Monday to come up with ways to help staff, while the phone for the Lismore Workers' Club was directed to a voicemail message.
Owner of Ballina Fair Cinemas, Paul McGrath, unintentionally quoted a lyric from a well-known 1960s song when he said "you don't know what you've got 'til its gone" when describing the shut-down.
Mr McGrath employs 15 people, with four permanent staff.
He said Sunday's shut-down announcement was a "shock" but "inevitable".
"We (the business) had ground to a halt," he said.
"We had 50 people in last Sunday when normally we would have 500."
Mr McGrath admitted the closure could lead cinema-goers straight to streaming services like Netflix, but he hoped that's when people realised how much they missed the atmosphere of a cinema.
"I'm hoping the recovery will be quick and everyone will be looking to get out again when it's over," he said.