FREMANTLE should lay claim to being the birthplace of craft brewing in Australia and restate its credentials as WA’s cafe capital to help the hospitality sector recover from Covid.
Tuesday’s Politics in the Pub, organised by The Fremantle Network, was centred around the theme “How’s Hospitality Work Going” and attracted about 50 people including cafe and small bar owners.
Organiser Christian Mauri said the primary aim of the discussion was to give a voice to hospitality workers, who have been at the coalface while the pandemic has thrown the sector into turmoil.
A lack of transient workers to fill shifts and staff being forced to isolate after either catching Covid or being a close contact, means cafes, restaurants and bars are having to put workers on the floor with little training, while workers face long shifts.
Add in mandates and masks for cranky customers, and some experiences have been truly horrifying, including women having their bums pinched and drink spiking on the rise.
Although they’re not hospo, the Chook noted that Target recently put up a sign at its Fremantle store announcing a trial of body-worn cameras from staff who’ll trigger them if they feel a situation is escalating and their safety is at risk.
In response to the poor behaviour, one of the main themes to emerge from Tuesday’s gathering was that staff want to move away from the attitude that the customer is always right, as this was directly contributing to people feeling they had a right to abuse them.
Strange Company bar manager Elise Godwin says Australia has to catch up with the respect given to hospitality overseas.
But another major theme of the night was the Freo’s hospitality scene was worth fighting for, and there was a collegiate atmosphere in the sector – particularly with workers switching between venues.
South Fremantle Brewing co-founder Eamonn Barnes said Fremantle should capitalise on the history it made when the Sail and Anchor started brewing its own craft beer. He said it’s strange the city had never laid claim to that title, but says the time is ripe with the phenomenal growth of the sector.
Mr Barnes said the age of binge drinking was fading, with more people interested in trying out a craft beer – the slight increase in prices helping to push the trend along. He also encouraged would-be brewers and hoteliers to communicate with neighbours well before laying the first brick, saying developing a good relationship can prevent problems arising later on.
Hospitality consultant Sarah Davis said there was a great opportunity for Freo to establish itself as a hospitality training hub, with a dire shortage of trained staff across the metropolitan area.