The nationwide shutdown of restaurants, bars and pubs has resulted in the temporary closure of Sydney-based group Merivale’s venues.

The hospitality group’s 70-plus venues closed on Monday, with CEO Justin Hemmes announcing the move on Tuesday 24 March. Bottle shops at The Newport, Allawah Hotel and The Royal will remain open.

“This is the extremely unfortunate reality of COVID-19 and all Australians are being severely impacted through no fault of their own,” said Hemmes in a statement.

“It is a particularly devastating time for the hospitality industry, but nothing is more important than health. We wholeheartedly support government efforts to protect our country and will happily play our part to help stop the spread.

Now that this decision has been made for community health and safety, my absolute top priority is supporting our staff. Merivale is what it is today because of its people, and I am simply in awe of our team’s passion and strength, especially over the last few weeks.”

According to Australian Hotelierthe majority of the business’ 3,000 staff will receive a financial support package, including a one-off $550 discretionary payment for every employee who has been with the company for more than two months and works over 5 hours a week.

Permanent staff will be able to access accrued annual leave and the group has also set up a Financial Hardship Support Program for employees especially hard hit by the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

“Behind the scenes, we are doing everything we can to get the business in the best possible position to reopen its doors, and help rebuild our economy, as soon as it is safe to do so,” continued Hemmes.

“We will continue to update you on developments, including how we can continue to operate under the government’s new takeaway and home delivery guidelines, in the hope we can continue to serve you safely and maintain a livelihood for as many of our much-loved employees as possible.   I will be in touch with you again once we have finalised our plans.”

Merivale is the latest in a line hospitality businesses to opt for temporary closures over other options such as offering take-away and home delivery.

Hemmes said he is “completely heartbroken” by what’s happening to the hospitality industry, but remains hopeful of a full recovery.

“Together we will get through this and I can’t wait to personally welcome you all back into our venues as soon as it is safe,” he said.

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