Sydney pub owner's clever coronavirus solution

Royal Leichhardt has switched gears to keep up with coronavirus restrictions. Source: Getty

This is the part of our Pivot Series, where Yahoo Finance tracks stories of small business survival tactics during the coronavirus crisis.

When Marty Short realised his pubs were going to be subject to strict lockdown measures, and effectively shut down, he had to do something. 

“We got the shocking news on Sunday that we could no longer sell a shnitty or a schooner over the counter anymore, so we started thinking, ‘how could this look?’,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“To justify us existing, we thought, ‘well what would our communities would need from us if they got stuck?’”

Short, whose family run W. Short Hospitality Group which owns a string of iconic pubs across Sydney such as like The Glenmore Hotel, The Australian Hotel and Misfits Bar & Dining, said it was an overnight decision to strip the hotel of its furniture and stock it with goods.

Inside the Royal Leichhardt, which has been converted into a convenience store. Source: Supplied

“We put teams in on Sunday to strip the venues of their furniture, and of the stock we couldn’t sell we redeployed it to venues that were still open,” he said.

“We stripped every pub that couldn’t trade under the new restrictions of its grog and put it into the other pubs for a chance at selling it.

“We’re filling dining table areas with stock, and made it look like a brand new pop-up shop.”

And Short’s had support from other businesses to help him achieve it. “Coca Cola came to the rescue and gave me extra fridges to put meat and veg in, and Bisley Workwear gave us all the fluro and safety gear we needed to transport the stock.”

Inside the Royal Leichhardt, which has been converted into a convenience store. Source: Supplied

Staff losses in the hundreds

Despite Short’s efforts to switch gears, staff across the group’s nine pubs were stood down as a result of the changes.

“Of our 500 staff, we had to let over 400 go in one swoop,” he said.

“We’re down to about 60, and I’m trying to fight to keep them going for as long as possible.”

But Short said his staff have been understanding.

“The sentiment amongst my employees has been amazing,” he said. “I can’t comprehend what they’re going through, or their families are going through. No one can.”

To soften the blow, everyone who has worked for Short in the last three months will receive a $50 credit for his stores, he said.

Marty Short with a staff member of the W Short Hospitality Group's other venue, The Tudor. Source: Supplied

Delivery on the cards

The Hotel is also looking at delivery options, with staff working on the back end to facilitate a pick-up and takeaway style service.

“We’ve got to get the technology, everyone’s wanting to do it so we’re going to do it,” he said.

Juggling kids

Short revealed he has four kids too, and trying to juggle the situation at hands as well as kids has been “interesting”, but says everyone is in the same boat.

“When’s the world ever been in the same situation at the same time?” he said.

Short’s children’s schools have all been shut due to the virus, and says the family is just learning to adjust.

“What we’re learning to do today is going to be different to what we have to do tomorrow,” he said.

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