Joe Wright and Kerry Byrnes from the Brunswick Hotel.
Joe Wright and Kerry Byrnes from the Brunswick Hotel.

How a Rocky pub made it through 2020

Joe Wright has worked at the Brunswick Hotel in South Rockhampton for nearly 15 years.

And even with 23 years in the hospitality industry, he said the pace of 2020 was "surreal".

The year started off well.

"It was like a normal start of the year," Mr Wright said.

"Normally around rates time things start to slow down.

"It seemed to be going good, then out of the blue the COVID thing sort of happened. That was in March, and then all the new rules and everything came along.

"It got strict real quick: we were working here one day and we closed the doors the next day."

Twenty-two of the pub's staff no longer had jobs.

Mr Wright said it would not have been sustainable to stay open for anything but takeaway meals during Stage One restrictions.

"I had to let go of 22 staff members that night," he said.

"Twenty-two good staff members didn't know what they were doing; I didn't know what to tell them."

He said that despite those losses, some government money kept the pub afloat - a fate not shared by all in the industry.

"I don't think we would have made it otherwise," Mr Wright said.

"There's a lot of places that didn't make it."

The Brunswick Hotel on Archer Street.
The Brunswick Hotel on Archer Street.

During Stage Two restrictions, the business became more viable, though things were a little different.

Not all of the Brunswick's customers were pleased.

"A lot of our staff have got pretty thick skin now," Mr Wright said.

"Telling grown people that they can't stand and have a beer: they had to sit down and have a beer because COVID would get them if they stood up and had a beer.

"That was probably one of the most interesting rules out of the whole lot. We had a fair bit of kickback for that and we got called some colourful names. We're getting kickback now for the QR codes."

Regardless, employees soon completed an online COVID-19 safety course and A4 paper on the pub's outward-looking glass now informs visitors of the new rules.

Many of the laid-off workers have been re-hired.

"Hopefully we go bigger and better," Mr Wright said about the new year.

"We like to keep our doors open like everywhere else, and we want to keep continuously giving good service. We're a family atmosphere pub.

"We just want to keep doing our own thing, making sure that we look after everyone."