Hundreds of people out of work in Cessnock area as coronavirus crisis forces clubs, pubs and restaurants to close

DOORS CLOSED: Cessnock Leagues Club staff Richard Green, Paul Cousins, Debbie Kinch and Steve Orr after the club closed its doors on Monday.

DOORS CLOSED: Cessnock Leagues Club staff Richard Green, Paul Cousins, Debbie Kinch and Steve Orr after the club closed its doors on Monday.

Hundreds of people are now out of work in the Cessnock area following the Federal Government's decision to close clubs, pubs and restaurants in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Long queues were reported outside Centrelink Cessnock on Monday after the changes that were announced on Sunday night, sending shock waves through one of the Hunter Valley's major employment sectors.

Cessnock Hospitality Group CEO Paul Cousins said the decision to force such venues to close was devastating, particularly given the uncertainty of how long the closures would last.

The group - which includes Cessnock Leagues Club, Vincent Street Kitchen and Bar, Paxton Bowling Club and Wine Country Motor Inn - employs about 100 staff (including more than 80 people across the three licensed venues).

The three venues had already announced reduced trading hours and suspended a number of activities in the wake of last week's restrictions on indoor gatherings, while the motel (which is considered an essential service) is relatively unaffected.

"We had been planning for the worst-case scenario, but it has come along a lot quicker than we had hoped," Mr Cousins said.

"The worst part about it is that given we've been forced to close so early, we'll be a long time closed.

"But I'm encouraged that the government has made these drastic measures now, because hopefully it will shorten the timespan of the crisis."

While some restaurants will be able to continue operating by offering takeaway or home-delivered meals, but Mr Cousins said this wasn't "economically viable" for the club.

Cessnock Hospitality Group CEO Paul Cousins

Cessnock Hospitality Group CEO Paul Cousins

The closure has also upended the Leagues Club's 40th anniversary celebrations, with a number of major promotions planned throughout the year.

All cash and goods are being removed from the site while the club is temporarily closed.

Mr Cousins said it was difficult to comprehend what things will look like when the club reopens.

"It's something I never thought I'd see throughout my career," he said.

"I've been here for 10 years, and we've built up an amazing team, with great people across all departments, and that continuity is going to be broken.

""As soon as we're able to reopen, we'll be open, but it's challenging times in the meantime.

"The only positive is that we're not in this alone.

"Everyone will do their bit to get everyone through this."

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