Arts & Entertainment

Cocktail Party

Adam Parker, The Hive Bar Photo: Nicola Vircoe

By Madison Behringer

Since March 23 our beloved pubs, clubs and local bars have been forced to shut down following the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the Federal Government. For many businesses this has meant closing the doors all together while waiting out the storm, but for others, relaxed restrictions on takeaway alcohol have given local bars the option to stay open for delivery and takeaway. On April 15 the NSW Government published a “Frequently Asked Questions” release on the Liquor & Gaming NSW site addressing the questions raised by business owners in relation to the new relaxed laws. According to the site, small bars and other licenced restaurants and cafes are now able to sell takeaway and delivery alcohol thanks to the Deputy Secretary of the Better Regulation Division of the Department of Customer Service. The rules are not made clear though with no limits on the amount of alcohol a venue can sell to punters and no indications on how long these new restrictions will last.

Several local bars in the Newtown and Erskineville area are keeping their doors as open as possible and are continuing to offer cocktails, drinks and food via new takeaway and home delivery systems. Most venues have had to scramble to adapt to the new regulations with their business models completely changing during these unprecedented times. Much-loved local company Young Henrys located in Newtown are offering free home delivery for online orders made over $100 ensuring everyone is stocked up on their “#quarantinnies”.

Other small bars in the area are also following suit and providing home delivery service, especially for cocktails.

Earl’s Juke Joint on King Street, Newtown have found a new source of revenue through their cocktail and beverage delivery service put in place ahead of the March 23 lockdown. Owner-operator of Earl’s Juke Joint Pasan Wijesena told City Hub, “we made the decision to start doing takeaway and delivery before any relief measures were officially announced, so initially it was a method of survival and trying to add a revenue stream as our in-venue trade was dwindling due to the social distancing laws.” Pasan went on to say, “I’ve put so much into this place that I want to do everything I can to make sure I gave it my best effort to make it through, and to try and turn this negative into a positive.”

Instead of opting to use a delivery service like UberEats and forfeiting revenue, Earl’s Juke Joint are delivering their drinks in-house, with staff dropping orders off to the locals themselves. Pasan said, “customers get a kick out of having their drinks delivered by the guys who make the drinks and normally serve them at the bar… it allows us to keep our prices competitive and it’s all in-house.”

The Hive Bar in Erskineville is another local business that has taken a hit as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Since March 23 the bar has been operating out of a “takeaway window” where locals are able to grab their favourite food and cocktails. Director and Licensee of The Hive Bar Adam Parker told City Hub it was touch and go for a few days.

“At first, we just tried to sell all the stock that we had, because they hadn’t even announced that we could sell takeaway alcohol yet. We were ready to pack up shop for a few months,” he said, going on to say: “After we’d packed everything up they announced that we could serve takeaway cocktails so we thought we’d better have a go of it.”

Adam expressed his frustration at how vague the government’s new laws have been for small businesses, butsays The Hive Bar wouldn’t still be open without the local community’s support, saying: “The locals around here have been really amazingly supportive, especially on the cocktail side of things. A lot of them are also ordering dinner for the whole family a couple of times a week – it’s been really, really good. If we were in another neighbourhood I don’t think we would have survived.”

Enmore Road’s neighbourhood bar The Midnight Special have just announced their new cocktail delivery special that will be rolling out at the end of this month.

“We’ve been busy testing a selection of our cocktails to work out what suits being bottled without losing the balance of flavour in the drink. We wanted to give the customer the best possible tasting cocktail that is super easy to put together at home,” they said.

Since the March 23 lockdown The Midnight Special have been publishing isolation playlists to their Instagram page (@themidnightspecial) and are encouraging locals to download the playlists while enjoying one of their signature cocktails.

“If you miss our little dark bar with orange lanterns and fairy lights, soon you will be able to enjoy a little bit of The Midnight Special at home with our pick-up and delivery service. Dim your lights at home, draw the curtains and enjoy your drink of choice while listening to one of our curated isolation playlists.”

At this stage there is no set end-date on the current restrictions for local bars and pubs, but with the relaxed alcohol takeaway laws remaining in play for the foreseeable future, businesses have found new ways to adapt and thrive under the COVID-19 regulations and are able to keep their doors (and takeaway windows) open with the support of locals.

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