Venues forced to change services, opening hours

Chef and restaurateur Sean Carter says the industry is
Chef and restaurateur Sean Carter says the industry is "being strangled by something that has never even been here". Photo: Nicky Lefebvre

Businesses in the South West of WA continued to struggle with staffing numbers this week, as the State Government mandatory vaccine policy came into effect, requiring most of WA's workforce to be double-vaccinated against COVID-19.

Restaurants, retailers and accommodation providers found themselves without servers, chefs, sales assistants and cleaners as the first 'Group 2' deadline passed.

Workers in the Group 2 classification must have received their first dose by 31 December 2021, and be fully vaccinated by 31 January 2022 .

Penalties apply to both individuals and businesses if unvaccinated employees are found to be working onsite, while employers are required to keep official records of all vaccinations.

Italian restaurant Pizzica was forced to close its doors for two days each week, having lost a portion of their staff group during one of the busiest times of the year.

In a social media post, management said the decision was made to help staff cope with peak-period demand.

"Special thank you goes to our amazing staff, who is doing an incredible job managing this busy period constantly under-staffed due to the lack of hospitality workers in the region," they said.

"Unfortunately, due to the new COVID-19 working safe restrictions and the mandatory vaccination program during the middle of the school holiday, we lost part of our staff and we are not able to replace it at the moment.

"We know we are not the only local business affected. As business owners, we care about the human side in a working place, we cannot and we don't want to demand more from our staff.

 Pizzica has been forced to close its doors for two days each week, having lost a portion of their staff group during one of the busiest times of the year. Photo: Pizzica

Pizzica has been forced to close its doors for two days each week, having lost a portion of their staff group during one of the busiest times of the year. Photo: Pizzica

The business will close on Sundays and Mondays but maintain a full menu from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

"We want to keep on a daily basis the best experience, food quality, and service to our clients without occurring in unexpected situations. We hope for your understanding and we will work for coming back stronger in the future."

Margaret River restaurateur Sean Carter said his two businesses - a busy central cafe and South American-inspired restaurant El Toro - had also suffered.

"We can't find staff, I have lost two staff to the decision not to vaccinate," he said. "I have had people approach me for cash work but are unvaccinated, so that's obviously a big no."

Mr Carter said the restaurant was frequently booked to capacity, but without the available staff, he could not earn the revenue required to sustain them over the quieter winter months.

"And now because I have no staff I have to turn away customers, because we cannot do the numbers," he said.

Mr Carter said the stress of juggling an exhausted staff group, family commitments and a constantly changing business climate had led to many sleepless nights.

"I can't make my profit during the busiest time of year, so now we will struggle during the quiet time. We are being strangled by something that has never even been here... it hurts so much."

WA Premier Mark McGowan this week announced plans to establish a longer term policy for proof of vaccination to be required in a wide range of licensed venues, restaurants and gyms.

"We know that vaccination means you're significantly less likely to wind up in hospital or ICU," Mr McGowan said.

"We know it makes you less likely to catch the disease, and less likely to pass it onto others, especially if they themselves are vaccinated. When everyone in a venue or at a major event is vaccinated, it makes it safer for patrons and staff.

"We want you to feel confident, whether you're working a shift, or heading to a restaurant with friends, that you've got a degree of protection because you're only mixing with vaccinated people."

Tony Breen, owner of The Common, said it was essential that the doors stayed open as much as possible at the start of the year.

"I'm more worried about what happens if we can't make what we normally make in January, and then February hits.

"We open the border to capacity limitations and reduced consumer confidence, and then are struggling from that point. The end doesn't seem to be in sight."

This story Staff shortages hit crisis point as venues limit opening hours first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.