Hotel uncertainty to impact community

THE uncertainty surrounding the future of suburban pubs and clubs given Labor’s policy to limit electronic gaming to casinos will send the hospitality industry backwards and negatively impact the community, say a number of Eastern Shore hotel operators.

They say the loss of revenue will force them to cut jobs across all areas of hotel operation, put upgrades to venues on hold and community and review charity-based support initiatives.

Jocelyn Berechree, manager of the Risdon Brook Hotel, said she was unsure what the future would hold for the hotel if electronic gaming machines were removed, but in the short-term, staff hours would be the first thing to go.

“Because it’s a new business, we don’t have a lot of knowledge on how it all goes, it’s a very unsure area,” Ms Berechree said.

“I know the trading hours will definitely change significantly and this also reduces staff as well.

“We will have employment loss. I’m estimating between eight and 10 staff will have to go with the gaming machine removal, because we’ll lose that whole area of the hotel and also because trading hours will have to be reduced.”

Ms Berechree, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 20-years, said alongside a reduction in trading hours and the inevitable loss of jobs, she was also worried about hotels losing the level of safety they were able to provide if a significant portion of their revenue was taken away.

“I’ve been in the hospitality industry since I was 13, I started as a kitchen hand,” Ms Berechree said.

“I have gone off and done other things and come back to it, I love this industry and I love where we are now.

“If I have a choice to go back to the way things used to be in the hotel industry, I wouldn’t want to do that.

“Investment has been put into these venues to make them look great and be comfortable and secure for everybody, with fantastic cameras that allow everyone to feel safe.

“I love where we are now, we’ve come a long way and I would certainly hate for the industry to go backwards.”

Darren Brown, general manager and licensee of the Shoreline Hotel, which has 62 employees, said following the initial loss of jobs, the flow on effect from removing electronic gaming machines would have the greatest impact on the community.

“We would lose four full-time equivalent positions immediately from removing our gaming room staff,” he said.

“Spread over our casual and part-time staff, this will affect around seven people.

“While we can quantify gaming numbers, we can’t necessarily quantify the effect it will have on other areas of the business and the resulting staff levels, we predict around 15 positions will have to be reviewed.

“We paid around $2 million in wages last year, this money doesn’t get lost, it gets distributed around the community.”

Mr Brown said the predicted reduction in positions at the hotel would also make it harder to employ workers who were new to the hospitality industry.

“We’re large enough to carry people who are new to the industry and help them learn their craft, when things get more difficult you don’t do this so readily,” he said.

“That means the kid doesn’t get their first job and the uni student can’t support themselves as they study.”

The Shoreline Hotel supports a number of community organisations, including providing training gear and jumpers for the Clarence Junior Football Club and providing meal vouchers to schools in the district, which can be raffled or auctioned off in fundraising efforts.

“We get lots of requests from different organisations and individuals and we love supporting them,” Mr Brown said.

“Recently a family was struggling with their child in hospital in Melbourne, they needed to raise some funds and we assisted to raise those.

“Hotels play a large role in the community and we do what we can to help out, we’ll never stop helping out.

“But if we lose one of our revenue streams it will have an impact on how far we can go to help out these different causes in the community.”

Foreshore Tavern operations manager Colin McGillivray echoed the sentiments of Ms Berechree and Mr Brown, saying that if poker machines were removed from pubs and clubs, a loss of jobs would happen immediately.

“If electronic gaming machines are removed, hotels will have to cut costs to recover the lost revenue stream,” Mr McGillivray said.

“It can be looked at like an onion, the first layer is the loss of gaming jobs, then opening hours will have to be reduced.

“Eventually, it could have a negative effect on the level of customer service we are able to provide as a business.”

Caption: Jocelyn Berechree, manager of the Risdon Brook Hotel, is worried the hotel industry will go backwards if electronic gaming machines are removed from pubs and clubs.