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Mary's lays off staff as hospitality industry begs for relief

Cassidy Knowlton
Written by
Cassidy Knowlton

Sydney burger institution Mary's has made the heartbreaking decision to lay off much of its workforce as the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions on gatherings decimate its business.

"We've been in tears for two days as we lay off friends and family, loyal and hard-working people," says Mary's co-founder Kenny Graham. "And what do we have to tell them? Tell us the fucking plan!"

Graham says the current ever-tightening restrictions without an overarching plan is "death by a thousand cuts" for the hospitality industry, with venues unsure whether and when they should switch to delivery, adopt restrictions on numbers and cleaning procedures or just pull the plug entirely.

Sydney-based hospitality lobbying group the Night Time Industries Association (whose chairperson, Michael Rodrigues, is also the managing director of Time Out) is calling on the government to provide some certainty to the more than 900,000 Australians who work on the hospitality industry. The NTIA has launched the Keep Our Venues Alive campaign and is pushing the federal government to: 

  • Work with councils to suspend business rates on venues for at least three months;
  • Make financial provision for all venue staff (including casual staff) and self-employed people who cannot work for at least three months;
  • Provide tax relief to the hospitality, arts, culture and recreational sectors for at least three months;
  • Encourage and support landlords to provide rent holidays to such businesses for at least three months;
  • Create a fund to support businesses that are forced to close or cease trading; and
  • Force insurers to cover closures of businesses and cancellations of festivals and events due to the pandemic.

Rodrigues says government must act urgently to save Australia's hospitality and culture sector: “Inaction will result in some of our best-loved pubs, restaurants, cafés, theatres and music venues closing down. The impact on the Australian economy and our local communities will be disastrous.

“The federal government is taking action to save other industries as it should – but the local Aussie pub, music hall, small bars and restaurants and the 900,000 people they employ all face ruin unless financial help arrives immediately."

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