There’s a tea towel draped over the taps at the bar and publican Brent Daniher gazes off into the distance. Sometimes locals drop in to check on him and see how he is coping.
For those businesses forcibly closed by COVID-19, the anguish is palpable. There is little light at the end of the tunnel.
Brent has calculated he can fit 25 people into the bar of Barellan’s Commercial Hotel with social distancing restrictions – not enough to make a profit.
He concedes there is little passing trade for takeaway meals and, unlike some pubs, no bottle shop so he has turned to catching up on maintenance.
“I have been going nuts,” he said. “One bloke comes in to see me and make sure I’m alright – we are a pretty close town. Usually there are a lot of farmers coming in, have their two beers and sit around and talk. We have lost that social meeting place. Many of these people are out there by themselves.”
The pub is open from 1pm-7pm for takeaways and the dining menu runs from Thursday to Sunday evenings.
Brent has taken a reduction in wage to do the cooking himself.
“Normally I would have another three staff,” he said.
The pub usually supports local sporting clubs but is unable to contribute.
Barellan was due to host the opening round of the ProTen Community Cup this month, a traditional money spinner for the pub and town.
“That was cancelled and the boys don’t know what to do with themselves,” Brent said. “I’m hoping for the day when this hell ends. I can understand the logic of it but business wise it is killing us.
“We are one of the lucky ones as we don’t have the overheads other people have. I don’t know what will happen as it will take a lot to get people back in here – they are in the routine of drinking at home.”
Brent said the older demographic of drinkers may be wary of entering a crowded pub again.
“We worked out 25 people can fit in the bar at 1.5m social distancing.”
He said the prospect of the Good Old Days Festival potentially not being held would be a financial blow with the loss of accommodation, meals and across the bar.
“They book 12 months in advance – it’s not just us, it’s the whole town. Up until COVID, the pub had been sailing along well as there was always something happening in town.”