The Quinn Branxton to close on August 1 after huge loss in trade due to Sydney lockdown

CLOSING TIME: The Quinn owner Robert Williams says the venue has lost about 60 percent of its trade due to the Sydney lockdown.
CLOSING TIME: The Quinn owner Robert Williams says the venue has lost about 60 percent of its trade due to the Sydney lockdown.

Branxton cocktail bar The Quinn will close its doors on Sunday, having lost more than half of its trade due to the Greater Sydney COVID lockdown.

The venue, which opened in November last year, relied on a mix of local and tourist trade, but with Sydneysiders not allowed to travel it has become "unsustainable" to continue operating, owner Robert Williams said.

"When we opened the plan was to attract visitors and capitalise on tourism, but that was then our Achilles heel," Mr Williams said.

"We have lost probably 60 percent of our trade. What we were doing on Friday and Saturday nights was more than we've done in a full week in the past four weeks.

"People are twice as scared this time, even the locals stopped coming in. The older people don't want to go out, they don't want to wear masks.

"It got us pretty quick."

Mr Williams said it was "deflating" to have to close the venue, which also includes a restaurant and an escape room, but with no clear end in sight for the lockdown it was unviable to continue.

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Mr Williams said as The Quinn has been trading for less than 12 months, it is ineligible for a majority of the government support that has been announced, and the grants that are available to them require a longer approval process that will not come soon enough.

"The small business grants that we can access would make up for what we've lost in the past four or five weeks, but won't help for a further six weeks or however long the lockdown continues," he said.

"We could keep running and end up in debt that we can't come back from, or we can walk away now, finish up, pay off anything owing, and it will be manageable.

"A lot of businesses will continue to fight tooth and nail but may end up in a far worse position."

Mr Williams said The Quinn has let half of its eight full-time staff go, but because the Hunter Valley is not a COVID hotspot or in a forced lockdown, those staff weren't eligible for anything more than the standard Centrelink support.

He said the situation has placed the Hunter Valley in limbo - in that we're not in lockdown, but may as well be.

"For the businesses that are reliant on tourism, it would actually be more beneficial to be in lockdown, instead of limbo. We would be able to access more help," he said.

"There's no consideration from the government for what it means outside of Sydney, and I understand they have bigger fish to fry, but a lot of businesses in rural areas will struggle because they haven't received that initial support."

As reported last week, the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association estimates at least 95 percent of the region's tourism businesses have been 'severely impacted' by the Sydney lockdown.

Mr Williams said many local businesses were still suffering from the March floods, which resulted in an "early winter" for many traders who used their "rainy day" money that would usually have been reserved for the winter slow-down.

"If it was a different time of year it might have been a different story," he said.

"This (the Sydney lockdown) has been an extra nail in the coffin.

"The support is not there, it's not fast enough, and it's too risky to continue."

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Mr Williams said The Quinn was grateful from the support of the local community throughout their time in business.

"We've got a good staple of locals, and a lot of them have made the effort to come in and have one last drink," he said.

Mr Williams said when they opened in November the Hunter Valley was "booming", as Sydneysiders were permitted to travel but some borders remained closed to NSW.

"We had a false sense of security, but this is the scenario that everyone threatened would happen - and it has," he said.