Country publicans will ‘soldier on’ during COVID-19 shutdown
YESTERDAY, Ian Tyack didn't pour a beer in his pub until 3pm.
Today at noon, he closed the bar at Charleville's Cattle Camp Hotel, and there is no telling when it will reopen.
It follows an eleventh-hour announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that all non-essential services are to be shut down in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.
At the Cattle Camp, it means the public bar and pokies will not operate, along with the kitchen, which has already been closed since Friday.
Mr Tyack said business had slowed significantly before the shutdown was announced, with Charleville residents taking social distancing measures seriously, events being cancelled, and the usual influx of visitors at the start of tourist season cancelling their accommodation bookings.
"The upcoming bowls carnival, show, and race meets have all been cancelled, so we have had a lot of bookings gone," he said.
"People aren't coming in to the pub, because they have been told to stay home."
Despite the decline in business, Mr Tyack is not downtrodden.
The longtime publican remains confident they will get through this series of unprecedented events, and survive on the one part of his business which will remain unaffected during the pandemic.
"I have been here almost 23 years, and am pretty well set up," Mr Tyack said.
"Our bottle shop is still open, and it will keep us going while the rest of the pub is shut."
However, Mr Tyack does hold concerns for some of the region's newer operators.
"I do feel sorry for some of the smaller places around here; some of them don't have a bottle-o and are relying on the bar and accommodation to keep open," he said.
"I'm not sure how they will go, but these are the cards we have been dealt, and we will all have to keep going."
New publicans 'soldiering on' in tough times
Of the new publicans in the west are Yvonne and Paul Richardson of Quilpie.
In November the former locals returned home and bought the Quilpie Heritage Inn, but their business has come to a halt.
Without a takeaway license for liquor or food, they have been forced to close their bar and restaurant indefinitely, and cancellations for accommodation bookings continue to roll in.
Uncertainty hangs over the next few months, which under normal circumstances would be some of the Inn's busiest: tourist season generally runs from April to October, and it is when businesses across the southwest do their best trade.
While the loss of business will be a blow for the Heritage Inn and a lot of other businesses in Quilpie, which only has about 600 residents, the town's newest publicans are doing their best to keep spirits up.
"We were quite excited about the times ahead, but anyway, things have changed and it is something we are going to have to work through," Mrs Richardson said.
"But we are trying to stay positive - we have a big long list of jobs that we need to do, so we are getting in and doing those things, as well as keeping in touch with people through social media.
"Because we aren't licensed for takeaway, we are having to find other ways to fill in the months, because I think tourist season is probably over for us."
Instead of pouring beers and serving hearty pub feeds, the couple hope to finish renovations around their almost-100-year-old hotel, revamp the beer garden, and fix the last of the damage sustained in wild storms earlier this year.
In the meantime Ms Richardson hopes to start a social media support network for the country hospitality industry, who will be hard hit over the coming months.
"We will certainly stay positive and that is all we can do," she said.
"You know, it is difficult for everybody and the hospitality industry is going to be hit extremely hard.
"So we are going to have to band together, work our way through this, and come out the other side a lot better and stronger.
"The only thing we can do is remain positive and soldier on."