It’s fair to say that we are in uncharted waters right now. As the coronavirus situation evolves day to day, we wanted to know what some of Australia’s best bar operators are doing to get through this tough time.
The first cab off the rank is Perth small bar, Foxtrot Unicorn. Below, owner Dimitri Rtshiladze outlines what they’re doing to minimise the risk to their staff and patrons and offers his thoughts on some practices that other bars might look at taking.
What are some steps back of house that you’ve taken to take care of your staff in these coronavirus times?
I think there are two things you need to take care of, firstly their health and secondly their financial wellbeing. To make sure they are safe it’s really just about enforcing proper procedures that should be practised anyway, ensuring they know what the current government guidelines are, and also having an open book with regards to taking time off or getting tested.
We are trying to be as open about the situation and hope it doesn’t get to the point of having to close bars around the city. Currently talking with our insurance company with regards to the situation if it worsens, hopefully we have seen the worst of it but who knows at this stage. The last thing anyone would want is staff to suffer financially because of the situation, luckily (touch wood) we haven’t noticed a drop in trade as of yet but we are aware things can change very quickly.
Even if trade does drop we know that the most vulnerable financially are going to be casuals, so people like myself and other managers are happy to take unpaid days off to give more shifts to casuals and things like that, at the end of the day a loss in one or two shifts a week for them is a hell of a lot more devastating than some loser bar owner not paying themselves for a bit.
What are you doing to reassure customers that you’re taking this stuff seriously? Have you implemented any new strategies?
To be honest not a whole lot apart from a few tongue-in-cheek posts saying that it’s simple to practice good hygiene and that we do that. We always like to take a casual personal approach to things, so I guess as long as we don’t seem to neglect the important aspects of the situation we will keep going as we are.
We have been more diligent with cleaning surfaces when groups move on, handling dirty glassware ect, but I feel these a more just basic good operational practices and we are just hyper-aware of them now. We have also banned high fives. Not really you just have to wash your hands afterwards.
How are you encouraging healthy punters to come in a support the bar?
We are just letting people know that we are still here, still open, safe to come to. A lot of people are aware of the situation in WA and as of writing this no one has contracted the virus from another person in WA. The authorities are doing a pretty good job of keeping people informed, local businesses have all implemented policies about not coming to work or isolating people that have travelled recently, so most punters who are fit to go to work seem to have the mentality that they are fit to go for a beer.
Do you have any advice for other bar owners trying to get through what looks like will be a tough time?
Be transparent with your crew, check your insurance policy, actually give some real thought to the worst-case scenario (either the zombie apocalypse or a complete city lockdown) and what you would do, be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.