A plea for help for Melbourne bars from Above Board owners, Erin & Hayden Lambert

The view of an empty Collins Street in Melbourne under continued Stage Four Lockdowns

Story by Erin & Hayden Lambert, Above Board Melbourne

When we started Above Board in late 2016, we did not think for one hot minute that by 2020 we would be spending most of the year stuck in perpetual lockdown and isolation. Fuck, I wanted a holiday but not a government-imposed lockdown where curfews, permits, fines and fear are the everyday reality for us. I wanted a holiday where I could explore freely and leave my worries behind. I wanted adventure and not an overwhelming sense of dread.

So, where does that currently leave us? While we watch others make the tentative steps towards a COVID normal we are patiently waiting, watching paint dry, hanging on by a thread. Planning and plotting, hoping that our road to COVID normal resembles something of an actual road instead of the climb to the top of Everest that we are currently facing.

In the first lockdown we all echoed the same sentiment that takeaway cocktails are the way to go but are no substitute for a real bar experience and especially for us at Above Board. But now we are hustling week in and week out to drum up customers and business online. Fighting like we have never fought before for a small market share of what everyone else is fighting for.  We have been forced to do business in a way that none of us in the bartending community ever envisioned and the looming fear that some of us won’t make it through to the other side is ever present.

We have had to change so much about our approach to everything. As owners we have had to make the hard and heartbreaking calls. We have had to adapt and overcome to the titanic changes to our working landscape. And now more than ever with Stage 4 Lockdown, known across the globe as one of the harshest lockdowns on record, we are faced with even more constraints and a pressure that hasn’t subsided.

In happier times at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in 2019, winning Small Bar of the Year

We all need your support! I know everyone has done it tough. But for those of you who are on the other side of lockdown, the Melbourne bar, restaurant and hospo community is hurting. Physically, mentally and financially it’s fucking heartbreaking.

What can you do to help? Well, if you love the bars in Melbourne and greater Victoria then reach out directly to them and offer to buy a product, offer a donation, tell your friends to do the same. There have been some great initiatives that we, Above Board, have been personally involved in and benefited from. Like the Melbourne Mixtape run by the formidable Zara and Michael Madrusan from The Everleigh. Ollie Margan from Maybe Mae created a series of cocktail nights showcasing drinks from a range of Melbourne bars called Melbourne Maybe. Anneliese Grazioli from Hot Tamale, Darwin and Jamie Fleming from Alba Bar and Deli, Brisbane have also thrown support Melbourne parties, which has been greatly appreciated.

If you are a brand representative then get behind us, now is the time to show your support. Every little bit helps. Most importantly of all say hi, reach out with a hello, with a message, with a human touch (virtually obvs and at least 1.5ms apart, wearing a mask, during the hours of 5am-8pm only)! We hope to see you all at the bar again soon.