Between my two businesses I employ 24 people. In the hostel we have over 4,000 people stay with us each year. Our pub hosts 3 live music events, pour 600 litres of beer beers and provide 600 meals every week.
I started the hostel 14 years ago. It has a special place in my heart. My first business. So many wonderful people that have come through. Lifelong friends made during that time.
We took over the pub in Castlemaine 3 years ago. We’d been in the inner north of Melbourne for so long and fell for the tree change idea. And Castlemaine is such a beautiful town. With a fantastic arts/culinary scene for such a small place.
My brother and I had run a live music venue before. He also manages popular band The Teskey Brothers. While I have spent done a lot of broadcasting with RRR and PBS. So live music is really key to our business.
But that all came to a halt in March. We’d been aware of the storm on the horizon through February as the accommodation industry started feeling the effects of the Chinese travel ban.
At the hostel people often stay for months at a time. We have a lot of connections and so we are able to help backpackers find work.
But in late Feb with Italy, Iran, the US all showing signs of the pandemic we had to have some frank conversations.
We were fine to say open, take no new guests but it was pretty clear that the Australian Government was not going to be providing any financial aid to foreigners.
Some of our guests went home, some looked at home and thought they’d be safer here, some couldn’t afford the last minute flights.
We’re going to keep the hostel open for these people until September when our lease comes up. But then we’ll have to shut down.
At the pub, because of our experience with the hostel we were probably a bit ahead of the game. Our priority was keeping our team together. Our team is excellent and we want to keep them with us.
To do that we had to figure out a new model. We set up an online meal ordering system. We employed staff as delivery drivers. And we shut the pub down weeks before we needed to.
Partly to focus on growing the delivery arm but also just to do our bit. Standing shoulder to sweaty shoulder with 180 other people for two hours dancing to a band or dj seems a pretty effective way to spread the virus.
Up here the community has been amazing. There are a lot of people wishing us well and supporting their local. But there is also a number of great initiatives taking place.
We contacted our suppliers and asked if they could donate some food each week. And now people in Castlemaine can nominate a friend or a neighbour or someone they know who is doing it tough and we’ll deliver a free meal.
We’ve been helping out single mums, pensioners, people who have been hit financially.
Aside from the financial strain, the lack of music, the inability to hang out with mates the isolation has actually been pretty ok. We’ve got an 11month old son. Running the businesses is pretty full on.
So waking up in the morning with the knowledge that I get to spend the day hanging out, parenting and watching him grown and learn is pretty satisfying.
Thanks to Paddy Furze for sharing his experience over the last free months. And many well wishes to him and his family for the next few more.
If you’re in Castlemaine anytime post iso please drop in to the Bridge Hotel for socially distant beer and fantastic gig.