Wineries make best of situation

Coonawarra’s Cellar Dwellers event has, for the second year running, been impacted by coronavirus restrictions in SA.

But Coonawarra Vignerons events and marketing officer Heidi Eldridge told The SE Voice she expects wineries to adapt to the restrictions after their experiences in 2020. “Wineries are probably more prepared and better-equipped than ever to be able to make the modifications to accommodate guests at their cellar doors,” she said.

“The beauty of events in Coonawarra is they’re generally intimate anyway, so a lot of the time it’s first-in-best-dressed. “The Victorians have been especially keen to return for this month (for Cellar Dwellers), given they missed out last year.”

Cellar Dwellers typically attracts interstate travellers, but Ms Eldridge said a large chunk of would-be guests from New South Wales and Victoria had been among the cancellations recorded by wineries.

Raidis Estate co-owner Emma Raidis said the winery’s “Pizza and Tunes” event on Saturday afternoon attracted about 100 guests. “It was a very busy day, we had about 100 people, mostly from the greater area and quite a few from western Victoria, so it was good to see them back,” she said.

“We had one cancellation from NSW that had already booked, but that was all which was surprising. “We had not had a lot of people book, normally we have bookings quite far in advance, but we did not have them for this weekend as we thought people were waiting to see what would happen.”

Mrs Raidis said she did see some overflow from other wineries who could not fit people in to their Cellar Dweller events due to COVID restrictions. While the Cellar Dwellers participants are working hard to stage COVID friendly events, hospitality restrictions were felt in other day to day venues.

Casual workers in hospitality were again among the hardest hit in business. The introduction of SA’s statewide social distancing restrictions forced Jens Hotel to reduce staff hours by around 10% last week. The hotel’s manager Aaron Davis told The SE Voice this particularly impacted casual workers, predominantly locals working a second job to get by.

Mr Davis said police were clamping down on licensed venues and that “if we get caught with one person over, we’ll get fined $5000”. “We’re trying to hold the staff levels to where they are,” Mr Davis said.

Mr Davis, who has spoken to the press in the past regarding the impacts of restrictions on Jens Hotel, said the business had copped criticism from members of the public for speaking out. Despite this, he said people had rallied behind “country businesses” after the introduction of the restrictions last week, with 190 meals sold on Tuesday night.

The pub sells around 200 meals on a busy night. But three staff members per shift had still lost hours.

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