ROUGH RIDE: Denis Cox stands in the empty arena at The Great Western Hotel. Photo Allan Reinikka.
ROUGH RIDE: Denis Cox stands in the empty arena at The Great Western Hotel. Photo Allan Reinikka.

Great Western has toughest ride yet but remains resilient

ROCKHAMPTON businessman Denis Cox has been around long enough to know that tough times don't last, tough people do.

But how do you best measure toughness and resilience?

The part owner and general manager of the iconic Great Western Hotel was able to do just that on Tuesday after he informed seven full-time employees and 30 to 40 casuals at a staff meeting, that there were no jobs for the immediate future.

Mr Cox described it as a constructive meeting but when it finished, one staff member said: "What should we do now?"

Mr Cox responded with: "Go home and stay safe."

His staff, much to their credit, didn't heed his advice straight away.

Despite the fact that, from this point in time they were not being paid, the loyal band of employees got up and worked the rest of the day to get the pub ready for shut down.

It was a moment in a dark time amid the global coronavirus pandemic that shone the brightest of lights on the group's collective character, and one that a proud Mr Cox will never forget.

"At the meeting we discussed what the options were for them (employees), like Newstart allowance, we're making sure they get all of their holiday pay and entitlements ASAP, and setting up a group Facebook chat so we can all stay in touch and share possible job opportunities," Mr Cox said.

"We were not in a position to do takeaways (to trade on) because we're not going to deliver a Texas barbecue platter or a $45 eye fillet you know.

"Our pub is reliant on a lot on events.

"A lot of the grey nomads and international guests come here and they love watching the free bull-riding, and there's also the concerts which have all been cancelled obviously.

"So once those events went, we just became like another steak restaurant in Rocky anyway.

"But yeah the staff made me proud with the way they handled things on Tuesday.

"And you know, we understand that we're just a small player in a bigger picture.

"Sure, in our world it means everything, but we feel for all of the businesses in Rocky."

Mr Cox said similar to a concert being cancelled, there was a knock-on effect.

"There's the artist who would have been paid, Stage and Audio who would have done the setting up and the lighting, the ticket sellers, the food suppliers, the delivery drivers, the liquor suppliers, security firm, the list goes on.

"So it's far reaching and that's what seems to be happening in so many different industries.

"You think it's just one job, but that job usually leads to another four or five other jobs or industries."

Mr Cox said he was not sure if all pubs would be able to survive a shutdown with it unknown at this stage how long that may go on for.

"It just depends on their financial situation beforehand and what cash reserves they had," he said.

"I think though, that there will be some understanding for the situation here - we're already seeing that from the banks suspending loans and repayments etc.

"I think some of the ­suppliers also will be very understanding.

"You know we have a number of advertisers and sponsors here who we're locked into contracts with.

"And I think what the general understanding is, let's just ride this all out, and if it happens to be three months let's just regroup then and hit the reset button and just extend the contracts for three months."



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