News / COVID-19

New COVID wave forces some Brunswick bars to close again

Brunswick Ballroom closes doors to January 21 because of virus-related staff shortages and ticket cancellations

Image source: Wikimedia

Mark Phillips
Sunday, January 9, 2022

AS the Omicron strain of COVID-19 continues to spread, a growing number of bars and entertainment venues in Brunswick have been forced to temporarily close because of staff shortages caused by the virus.

The Brunswick Ballroom is the latest venue to fall victim to the virus, announcing last week that it would close for a fortnight.

Brunswick East venue Whole Lotta Love expects to re-open on Monday after also closing unexpectedly last Wednesday, forcing gigs to be rescheduled to later in the month.

The pressure on hospitality venues comes as almost 1300 Brunswick residents have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week.

On Sunday another 312 new cases were recorded for Brunswick, Brunswick West and Brunswick East, bringing the number of active cases to 1522, or 30.4 for every 1000 people.

Venues are closing because staff are testing positive or being forced to isolate as close contacts, leaving the venues with not enough workers to continue operating.

In an email to patrons on Saturday, Brunswick Ballroom said its ability to remain open had been hit by the combination of staff shortages and ticket cancellations.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the temporary closure of the Brunswick Ballroom until January 21 whilst we navigate a safe path out of the current situation,” the venue said.

“With so many staff either covid [sic] positive, suspected covid positive cases or in isolation due to being close contacts, we are finding it increasingly difficult to staff the kitchen, floor and bar at the Ballroom.

“Future ticket sales have frozen, whilst our sold out shows have had up to 70% no show attendance rates.

“Staff can’t attend work for obvious reasons and patrons who have purchased tickets are making the conscious decision not to attend in fear of the contracting Covid-19.”

The venue had a packed schedule in the lead up to Christmas, including back-to-back gigs by power pop veterans Even and a Christmas Eve show by Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission.

While some gigs have been postponed or cancelled and punters will be offered a refund, the downstairs bar at the popular Sydney Road venue, the Brunswick Artists’ Bar, will remain open in a reduced capacity.

The scheduled re-opening on January 21 will not impact on the planned Western Weekender mini-festival two days later.

Whole Lotta Love in Lygon Street delayed its planned January 5 re-opening for similar reasons to the Brunswick Ballroom, including COVID exposures of staff.

The venue expects to open for the first time in 2022 on Monday.

Brunswick, Brunswick West and Brunswick East have recorded 1288 new COVID cases since January 3, with the number of active cases increasing almost five-fold in that period.

The three suburbs experienced a record 404 new cases on Saturday, the result of home-based Rapid Antigen Test results being included for the first time with the official daily statistics produced by the Victorian Department of Health.

Testing centres in and around Brunswick have all had long delays and in some cases closed because of excess demand over the past week.

As of January 4, the fully vaccinated rate for Brunswick and Coburg was 79.8%, compared to the statewide rate of 92.5%.