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Warrandyte awaits a grand return of the pub

THE GRAND WARRANDYTE’S taps have been switched off since March 23.
Warrandyte’s local bar and eatery has not seen a closure of this length in its 120-year history.
If history is anything to go by however, the pub will emerge from Coronavirus with flying colours and with a shiny new beer garden.
Fire, floods and everything in-between has beset the Yarra Street establishment over its 120-year journey and while General Manager Peter Appleby is confident the Grand will re-open its doors when appropriate, he admits the lockdown period has been a tough one, especially in the early days of the virus.
“It’s been a real challenge,” he said.
“Having to change our service three times in a week before we actually got shut down was a challenge as well.”
“Going from one person per four square metres, to 25 people max in a room, to this to that— to adapt to that three times in a week was tough.”
With a large financial hit, uncertainty across the hospitality industry and staff stood down across the board, Peter’s mind has been on the wellbeing of the pub’s workers.
“My main concern now is about our staff and their mental health and wellbeing.
“It’s been a pretty challenging time for all of us, including the owners,” he said.
Peter said pub management have to simply live with the obvious financial losses, their focus is on making sure staff are safe and well.
“We don’t have many people coming and going with the restrictions, obviously.
“I keep in touch with a few of the team and I know a lot of the other management team keep in touch as well.
“People are bored, people want to get back to work and they’re just sad to see the pub shut.”
“Once the doors re-open I think everyone will be happy again.”
Once they do, patrons of the Grand will be able to stroll into the pub’s most recent and exciting development — the Grand Beer Garden which is tipped to be just six weeks from completion.
“We are super excited.
“We don’t think there’s another spot on the Yarra River from this side of the city that will have views like this.
“We’ve got outdoor fire pits, some greenery, undercover areas.
“It’s going to be a nice, unique spot out on the Yarra River in beautiful Warrandyte, we can’t wait to have it thriving.
“I’d like to think when we re-open the outdoor restrictions will be different than inside areas — that’s what we’re hoping for.
“And hey, the sun will be shining by the time we get to re-open and it [the beer garden] will be a good spot to enjoy,” said Peter.
The need to adapt in the face of COVID-19 forced many restaurants into a reshuffle and with no certainty as to the end date of the lockdown, the Grand briefly offered a takeaway menu to continue trading.
Peter explained how the Grand’s initial take-away service was a pivot, but it did not really fit with what the team wanted the Grand to be known for.
“Being shut down was like ‘ok how long is this going to last?’
“We did the takeaway and the takeaway went quite well for us.”
“I guess at the end of the day that’s not what we wanted to be known as.”
July 16 was set to be the grand re-opening of the pub but a second wave of Coronavirus cases in Victoria put those plans on hold, temporarily.
“We got some hope that we could re-open — then the numbers went backwards — it’s been a rollercoaster challenge as to when we can open, what’s going to happen in the environment, and how does it work?”
“We’ve just got to sit here and keep rolling with the punches and wait for our turn to open — it’s out of our hands.”
In terms of the road back, Peter says the Grand will only re-open with a minimum patronage of 50 people to a space, as anything less simply is not financially viable for the establishment.
“We will still stick with 50 patrons,” he said.
“It is just not financially viable to open for 20 people — it simply does not make sense with such a large space as well.”
In a challenging environment, the Warrandyte community is keenly awaiting the return of its pub and Peter says that while it has been a difficult road, patrons will be enjoying a cold beer or a delicious meal soon, likely in the sunshine of the spring and summer months.
“It’s going to be a challenge but we’re certainly up for it.
But, Peter says, as many of us have had to already, the rules around this virus often require some form of adaptation and the pub is ready to adapt, if necessary, to meet any requirements which will allow it to reopen.
“We want the doors open as quick as we can so whatever rules present themselves; we will follow.”
For now, we all wait, and watch, but it is certain that the reopening of our local pub will be a grand event.