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Newcastle pubs push on in spite of pandemic restrictions

For Rod Holloway, last weekend was supposed to be a landmark occasion.

His pub, the iconic Star Hotel had been undergoing a considerable facelift – a makeover that was to be unveiled to the public in a three-day relaunch extravaganza.

Then, at 4pm last Saturday, news came down the wire that Newcastle had, once again, plunged headlong into another two weeks of COVID restrictions.

“Basically we had three big days planned and the Friday night was awesome,” Rod told Newcastle Live.

“Saturday was supposed to be the launch of our Retro Night and we had a lot of groups coming in for a good sing and a dance. Then all of a sudden there was no singing or dancing and that masks basically decimated the night.

“Some people came in for dinner, but when groups came in and realised they had to sit in their chairs they didn’t stay very long. It also killed our Sunday. We had 150 veteran motorcycle riders coming from the Central Coast for lunch who obviously had to cancel.”

Despite the opening weekend being crippled by the restrictions, Rod said The Star was pushing on regardless and he urged punters to come in and check out the new-look venue and the brand new menu.

“We’re pushing forward on a daily basis,” he said.

“Part of our launch was our new menu and we had some fantastic response from that on Friday night. So, I would definitely encourage people to come in and try the new menu and see what we’ve done with the place.”

It was a similar story over in Mayfield at The Stag and Hunter with publican Mick Starkey telling Newcastle Live the effects were being felt before Saturday’s announcement.

“Even the Sydney lockdown affected us,” he said. “we had some end of financial year functions that we had to cancel and in real terms the whole thing probably cost us $100,000. The announcement of 4-square metres halved our capacity, the entertainment is limited, consumer confidence is knocked around – it affected everything.”

Afeter having to cancel Friday night’s show festuring Melbourne-based pop rocker Ali Barter, Mick said the venue was fortunate to be able to host a gig on Saturday night despite the restrictions.

“We had Jack Billman, a great Canberra artist play here on Saturday night and he actually arrived at the venue just as the announcement was being made,” Mick said.

“So, we quickly scrambled and reverted back to our previous COVID scenario, the only difference was that everyone had to wear a mask.”

Like Rod, Mick said the Stag was pushing on regardless, and a tempting new menu, which dropped on Tuesday, provides yet another reason to visit the Mayfield venue.

“We are definitely open for business (bookings essential), we’ve got a great new menu and we’ll continue to host live music wherever possible,” he said.

“All local businesses definitely deserve support – especially those that are hosting live music because they effectively employ more people.

“Artists are basically left with nothing so we’re doing our best to give them a place to play and not just play for free and we need the punters out there to support that.”

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