Omicron’s COVID outbreak kills holiday season, as venues close, staff unpaid
Craig Mack suddenly envisions a frugal holiday season ahead.
The part-time bar staff at the Kinselas Hotel in Sydney, 45, were scheduled to work eight hours on Boxing Day, when the entire three-story venue was scheduled to host a special takeover event.
Like many hospitality events, it has now been canceled due to the substantial increase in COVID cases, with the number highest in NSW.
“I mentally spent this money on a vacation – I haven’t taken one for two years,” he says. “I just feel lucky that I didn’t spend a lot of money.”
But Mack – who is also an occasional drag queen host at the bar – isn’t optimistic about the other changes. He also had to work 10 hour shifts on New Years Eve and New Years.
“My shifts are still going for an enlightened NYE weekend, but looking at these trends, I’ll be amazed if that doesn’t change,” he says. “It will be 24 hours of work scheduled at [higher] holiday rate, gone. It ruins the income I expected and will impact everything. “
As this is not a government-imposed foreclosure, no financial support is available to cover the income gap.
These are the employees who rely on their hospitality salary for their main or full income. Mack, who also works full-time in digital marketing, feels most comfortable.
“Once again, hospitality and the arts / entertainment industries are the first industries affected,” he says. It’s that horrible feeling of déjà vu. There are bound to be a lot of hospital workers hoping that Santa will bring their rent for Christmas. “
“It’s devastating, destroying the soul”
Nationwide sites face tough choices.
Matt Sinclair, owner of Sum Yung Guys of Noosa in Noosa, posted a moving video in which he tearfully announced that the Queensland restaurant had no choice but to close during the busiest week of the week. year, less than two weeks after the state border reopened.
The full restaurant, which was slated to serve 300 customers a day, saw a staff member contract COVID, plunging 25 fully-vaccinated employees on the same shift into week-long isolation and forcing the Asian fusion restaurant to close due to ‘a staff shortage.
Event promoter Dan Murphy just canceled three upcoming major events in one day and has refunded all guests.
The site takeover events were scheduled to take place at Burdekin on Boxing Day, Beresford on January 3, and the Oxford Hotel soon, all welcoming up to 1,000 customers.
His New Years Eve event, I Remember House, is, at this point, still running at the Imperial Hotel in Sydney and the Emerson in Melbourne on January 2, but Murphy’s feeling is that they will be canceled, reckoning given the trend.
“It’s devastating, soul-destroying,” he says. “They are DJs, drag queens, artists and staff all out of work.”
The impact is brutal.
“You walk into this really bad headspace, thinking, why do I bother to look forward to something again?” ” he says. “There’s this feeling of helplessness, of hopelessness and just wondering when is this ever going to end?”
This is coupled, he says, with an understanding that things simply cannot move forward in today’s rapidly changing environment.
“It’s not safe. The safety of guests and staff is paramount.”
He does, however, have a message for the Premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet.
“It’s pretty good to hand all of that responsibility over to us. He’s supposed to walk us through that,” Murphy said. “By saying that we should take our responsibilities, he is shirking his own.”
NSW has reinstated mask warrants and the one person per 2 square meters rule for indoor venues, which will further affect hospitality.
Murphy will lose unavoidable fixed costs: graphic design, photography, advertising and promotion costs associated with hosting large events, and will not earn any ticket revenue.
“Even though they haven’t made everyone stay at home, so many people are isolated or are isolated, this is a lockdown aside from the name,” he said.
Difficult ethical decisions
Hospitality staff have come under further pressure since the full opening of New South Wales: whether to serve the unvaccinated.
Michael Hooper, 25, canceled all his shifts during the holiday season at the Oxford Hotel in Sydney when unvaccinated guests were admitted from December 15.
“My concern was either catching COVID and giving it to my family at Christmas, or becoming close contact and having to isolate myself on my own,” he says.
The bar staff member usually works 12 hour shifts five times a week and feels he must have made the difficult decision between income and security.
“It turned my workplace into a high risk environment,” he says. Initially worried about losing his job, his employer was sympathetic, but he heard of an increase in cases among hotel workers there.
“I’m not sure I want to come back in the New Year,” he said. “The NSW case numbers are crazy.”
“Wherever it stays open, there will be the next epidemic”
The Lord Gladstone Hotel in Chippendale has closed until New Years Eve and will re-evaluate later.
“We just saw sites in our area – Chippendale, Redfern, Waterloo – closing early because they had cases of COVID and staff got sick,” owner Benjamin Johnson said. “We made the difficult decision to protect staff and customers.”
Before the ruling, many ticket holders were asking for refunds for a third-party Boxing Day event at the site, which made it unsustainable.
“Everyone is playing it very, very carefully,” Johnson said. “It seemed irresponsible to us to be the only open venue in the area – we also wanted to show solidarity with other local venues. Everyone knows how much we love to party this time of year. , but anywhere that stays open is probably the next place to have an outbreak. “
He says they’re waiting for the dust to settle in preparation for reopening, but realizes that the dust – with increasing cases – will only get worse.
Stephen Ferguson, CEO of the National Hotels Association, says it’s a tough time for hotels and their staff.
“We hear about a lot of businesses that are shutting down due to close contact or on-site cases,” he said. “A tragic result is that casual staff will be deprived of pay and full-time staff will likely have to reduce their annual leave. “
What will make this “extremely difficult,” he says, is the loss of the higher penalty rate salaries that staff relied on.
The association will push governments to offer support packages.
“This is due to the number of businesses that close in the short term through no fault of their own, following specific health orders not on the business itself, but on individuals within that business,” said he declared.
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