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Melbourne bar owner Sebastian Costello talks COVID-19 with The Living Proof podcast

Food & Wine

Bad Frankie bar owner Sebastian Costello discusses COVID-19 and the current state of Melbourne’s bar scene with The Living Proof podcast.

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Costello is one of Melbourne’s many bar owners who now face another six weeks of COVID-19 restrictions as Stage 4 lockdowns began yesterday.

Still reeling from past lockdown restrictions, bar owners were hopeful that they would slowly be able to open their doors once again. But the newly introduced lockdown laws have scattered this hope, wreaking havoc to Melbourne’s once bustling bar scene.

Costello, who has been a bartender for 20 years, opened his bar back in 2014, with the intention to teach patrons about Australian spirits.

In a recent interview with The Living Proof, a bartending focused podcast that focuses exclusively on the current trends of the spirit and cocktail industry, Costello stated the implications of the shutdown not only on his own business but also the city’s bar scene.

He, like many owners, struggled when it came to shutting his doors.

“It was pretty tough, we took it day by day, week by week” he said.

“It’s quite lonely not working, because as a hospitality person you see so many people, thousands a week, that’s what makes it really wonderful.

“Then you go to isolating by yourself, it’s quite difficult.”

He said he considered switching to online orders, a valid process that many hospitality businesses are now thriving from. Ultimately, he decided against the practice, citing it as a different experience from his bar’s focus on face-to-face customer service.

Fortunately, Costello and his staff were eligible to receive the Australian government’s employment payment scheme.

Yet many Melbourne employees remain ineligible for this scheme, losing their jobs or work hours. Employment within the city has also dropped by 2.2% from mid-June to mid-July.

“The industry will be quite different, people will be a bit more weary, people will be worrying about coming out,” Costello said.

Costello remains convinced, however, that the friendly community surrounding the city’s bar scene will be responsible for patrons eventually returning to his and other establishments.

“The majority of Bad Frankie is just getting in there, being an escape for people and that’s what we’ll continue to be,” he said.

“We’ll be there, ready to give people a cuddle… not a cuddle, a handshake… from a metre away.”

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