Justin Hemmes, the CEO of Sydney hospitality giant Merivale, has decided to cease operating all of the group's venues across Sydney.
The announcement follows the Australian government's decision to halt operation of all “non-essential” businesses and services across the country on Monday, as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Merivale operates 70 or so venues, including Bondi and CBD diner Totti’s, Bar Topa, Lorraine’s Patisserie, Ash St Cellar, the Ivy Complex and Mr Wong. There's also the five venues at Coogee Pavilion and Paddington fine diner Fred's. Other popular spots include Little Felix, Lotus 2.0, Queen Chow and Palmer & Co.
Employees remain employed by Merivale and have been given a support package to support them through the suspension. Employees that have worked for the company for more than two months and works more than five hours a week (the vast majority of Merivale's 3000-plus staff) will be given a one off discretionary payment of $550.
In addition to the payment, permanent employees can also choose to access their accrued annual leave. Any employee with special hardship financial circumstances as a result of the impacts of Covid-19 can apply directly to the Merivale Employee Financial Hardship Support Program for a grant of up to $1000.
"It is a particularly devastating time for the hospitality industry, but nothing is more important than health," Hemmes said in a statement. "We wholeheartedly support government efforts to protect our country and will happily play our part to help stop the spread.
"Now that this decision has been made for community health and safety, my absolute top priority is supporting our staff. Merivale is what it is today because of its people, and I am simply in awe of our team's passion and strength, especially over the last few weeks. Behind the scenes, we are doing everything we can to get the business in the best possible position to reopen doors, and help rebuild our economy, as soon as it is safe to do so."
Merivale is the latest hospitality company to make the tough decision to close its venues as the coronavirus pandemic throttles the food and drink service industry. Yesterday Neil Perry announced Rockpool Dining Group would also shut its restaurants until further notice. A plethora of independent restaurants, bars and cafes have already closed their doors.