To Premier Steven Marshall and the transition committee,
On behalf of the undersigned venues, I wish to highlight the concerns of Adelaide’s bar industry regarding ongoing Covid-19 related restrictions.
This year has presented an immense challenge for all small businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector. Despite policy and sentiment now trending towards a return to normal for the broader community, local bars are enduring sustained financial and operational stress. Current restrictions against standing consumption mean that most bars are trading well under half of their licensed capacity. This has placed many businesses in jeopardy, as well as hundreds of jobs.
Bars and venues throughout the CBD have been a central driver of Adelaide’s urban renewal and youth employment in recent years. And substantial personal and financial risk has been taken to make a positive contribution to this city’s lifestyle and culture. We all want to see a vibrant Adelaide re-emerge during the recovery, but this means our businesses need to be in a position to lead, not just survive. We cannot contribute to a rebound in either employment or confidence while hamstrung by restrictions.
During the first few months of the pandemic there was community support for a staged lockdown, and trading restrictions were naturally a part of that strategy. This approach formed part of South Australia’s successful response to the outbreak, along with building testing capacity, contact tracing and public health messaging.
Venues around the city have acted in good faith and complied with each new directive issued by health authorities. Business practices and trading models have been heavily modified, along with the introduction of extensive measures to ensure individual and community safety.
However, over six months have now passed since South Australia last recorded a case of community transmission. It can no longer be claimed that harsh trading restrictions are either a proportionate response or a requirement for preventing infections. What they are producing is real and demonstrable economic, social and psychological harm. They are damaging businesses, delaying our city’s recovery and making temporary unemployment permanent.
Restrictions specifically affecting our industry continue to be issued without adequate explanation or justification, without provision of a timeline for review and in the absence of objective measures for success or failure. When full-contact sports are permissible but standing up in a bar is prohibited, it is clear that policy is being made in the absence of a logical risk assessment. The adoption of a more sensible and pragmatic approach would restore the confidence of the hospitality industry and help bring life back to the city’s streets.
A narrow window of opportunity now exists for bricks-and-mortar venues in Adelaide to make a recovery before business risks escalate next year. Jobkeeper support is being withdrawn in early 2021, at the same time as the summer festival season commences.
February to April is reliably the quietest trading period of the year for most city bars, particularly in the west end, with a seasonal shift in patronage to temporary spaces. It would be indefensible if large pop-up venues were permitted to operate with crowds numbering in the thousands while the city’s indoor spaces remained under tight restrictions.
We welcome the relaxing of restrictions outlined on October 3 regarding outdoor “vertical consumption” [meaning people can stand while drinking] as well as dancing at private functions.
Bars, however, are effectively excluded from the changes as few have any outdoor space and exist to service the public. We respectfully request that the committee consider extending these changes to include indoor spaces at their next meeting.
Across the border, Western Australians have been permitted to dance and stand while enjoying a drink since late June – and without consequence. We would encourage you to reconsider South Australian’s ability to do the same.
Sincerely, Dr Shaun Campbell, owner and manager, Bank Street Social.
Hains & Co
Hellbound Wine Bar
Lion Arts Factory
Malt & Juniper
Paloma Bar & Pantry
Pink Moon Saloon
West Oak Hotel