WHEN the Victorian Government announced the shutdown of non-essential services last month in a desperate bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Hurley’s Bar and Bistro on Allan St saw its clientele of 1200 a week immediately plummet to zero.
And like thousands of other business owners across Victoria, owner Brenton Sheppard was left to juggle the broken pieces of the livelihood he had built up over the past five years.
But fast forward to early April, and it looks as though the bar and bistro that had seemed dead in the water just weeks earlier has found a way to get through this unprecedented period.
Instead of curling into a ball and praying something was left on the other side of the pandemic, Brenton and his staff changed up their business model and started bringing their signature pub food right to their customers’ doorsteps.
Now working through their Facebook page, the vibe is similar to a guerrilla operation, with staff working off a quickly cobbled together menu.
And, despite initial growing pains and technological mishaps, Brenton said their opening night of the new era on March 26 was a bona fide success.
“On the second night I had the exact same team plus my wife working but it got that busy I had to call in another chef that had been stood down to come and help us, and two front-of-house casual staff who had been reduced to zero hours,” he said.
“The first three days we managed to do 600 meals in pick-up and deliveries, which is great. There are some things we need to work on ... we’re sort of just learning on the run and trying to iron out any inefficiencies.
“It was so well received to the point where I thought we could continue on with it and replenish the stocks through our suppliers.”
Open for pick-ups and deliveries for lunch and dinner, Hurley’s offers to fill the pub-feed hole that the residents of Kyabram no longer had access to.
And better yet, 10 people have been brought back into the workforce.
Brenton said while this initial success was more than encouraging, he was still unsure whether his business would be able to stay viable during the next few months.
“Our lifestyle and our business are based on what we were doing and had been doing for four or five years and now it has changed dramatically,” he said.
“Whilst the first week was really good ... depending how long it goes for will decide on whether it is a viable option, for one, and whether it is enough to get us through.”
But for now, Brenton said he had his staff, family, suppliers and landlord to thank, as well as the Kyabram community for keeping his ship afloat.
“They’ve been great. The messages of support and the fact they are ringing up and ordering meals off of us. I’m sure a lot of them have of food in their cupboard and in their fridges,” he said.
“Kyabram is a great town and I’ve noticed that in the last five years I’ve been here. When it gets real for something, they all rally around you.
“The community seems to be coming together as one and trying to help out as many people as they possibly can.”
You can support Brenton and his staff at Hurley’s Bar and Bistro by ordering a meal by phoning 5852 1005 or via their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hurleys.bar/