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Australia's Bars Are 'Shaken Not Broken' With Cocktail Delivery Service Keeping Them Afloat

The plan to ease coronavirus restrictions will see patrons slowly return to Australia's bars and restaurants, but for struggling owners, it's not a magic fix, with one saying he'd need to charge $1000 a head to survive.

A new cocktail delivery service, 'Shaken Not Broken', has been a lifeline, helping bars and eateries reach customers with mixed drinks delivered straight to their doors -- giving Australia's unique, local venues vital cash-flow until they can fully open.

Under Step One of the government’s three-step approach to reopening Australia, restaurants, bars and cafes will be able to have a maximum of 10 customers seated at any one time. But for many businesses, this will simply not be enough to cover costs.

Anthony Princi, who owns Bivouac eatery in Perth, told 10 daily he may not even consider reopening his restaurant at Stage Two when 20 patrons are allowed in.

“We may consider opening the bar, 20 people may help, but not the restaurant,” he said.

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While Aussie bars are closed, breweries are offering big discounts, drive-thru sales and fun specials to keep those thirsty for beer well supplied.

Bivouac specialises in Middle Eastern sharing plates, meaning Princi has had to change his menu for takeaway offerings.

“We’ve had to reduce the price, coordinate between online and phone orders — we also changed the kitchen configuration,” he said.

Maybe Sammy was recently nominated for Best Bar Team in the world. Image: Facebook

Across the country in Sydney, it's the same story for Stefano Catino, who said he won't be able to open his cocktail bar Maybe Sammy under Stage Two guidelines either.

It would be more expensive than what I would make -- I’d have to charge $1000 per customer.

“If they think you’re open, they [the landlord] will charge you full rent, full electricity.”

For Jamie Fleming, the new rules will mean another change of business model for his bar and delicatessen, Alba, in Brisbane.

“Every little bit does count -- we’re such a small venue, but I know for some people it won’t be worth it,” he said.

“We’ve never taken bookings before, we’re completely walk-in and bar-focused, but to make it worthwhile for the public we might need to do set dinners, set meals.”

But while the restricted numbers may be too strict to allow owners to open their doors, at least at first, they understand why businesses can't be run at full capacity.

Michael Madrusan, Director of Made In the Shade, which has four venues across Melbourne, told 10 daily the easing of the restrictions is not entirely helpful for his businesses, but understands why rule relaxations have to be staggered.

“I’m not surprised, I wasn’t disappointed by the announcement,” he said.

At his venues, the patron's experience, not only the food and drink, is part of the appeal.

“We will reopen the way it was intended and deliver a model that we spent years designing for them,” he said.

“For us, as a company as a whole, if you’re not looking after people, what is the point?”

To help stay afloat during the lockdown, hundreds of bars across Australia have signed up for the Shaken Not Broken initiative, which is the country’s largest contactless cocktail delivery service.

Fleming said even the name of the initiative — Shaken Not Broken — was poignant.

“When the shutdown happened, even the sternest people I’ve met in my life broke down,” he said.

“There’s almost nightly Zoom meetings, showing just how tight the industry is.”

The initiative provides a centralised place for punters to order their favourite cocktails. Image: Campari Group

Campari Group, one of the biggest liquor suppliers in the world, began the campaign to support local venues during the pandemic.

The company, which has a spirit portfolio that includes Aperol Spritz, Wild Turkey and Skyy Vodka, will also be providing free stock to many venues to help them during the downturn.

“These companies that have made great revenue from the success of thriving business -- it's so good to see them put their hands in their pockets,” Madrusan said.

“It’s good in a way that there is a central location for those who want to see what their favourite bars and businesses have on offer. I think it’s really creative.”

Anthony Princi, who owns Bivouac, asked for patience from the public. Image: Bivouac

The staggered start to businesses opening doors again may leave the average patron in a celebratory mood, said Princi, who has asked for “genuine understanding” from the public for the hospitality industry.

“Be patient with what’s going on," he said.

"I may open the door for a few bookings, but if I’ve got a couple trying to walk in, don’t be upset because I’m booked,” he said.

The general consensus from the industry is that if Australians want to enjoy their favourite venues after the pandemic, they need to support them now.

“We know how to make cocktails -- buy online, there's a big range of bars,” Catino said.

“For us, we need straight cash to stay alive, that is the biggest help.”

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Fleming added there's a human side to the shutdown as well, outside of the financial implications.

“We just love serving people,” he said.

“To share a drink, to laugh, cry to celebrate -- we are looking forward to that just as much as business. We are starved of that interaction.”

Check out which venues near you are delivering here.