WINTER was supposed to be a good season for Fibber McGee’s.
The Leederville Irish pub’s hearty food and dark stouts usually sees trade pick up in the colder months, a reversal of the patterns at a lot of summery bars.
But in the space of a week they went from celebrating St Patrick’s Day on March 17 to having their dining area shut down along with all other restaurants and bars by federal government decree on March 23.
On that Monday, restaurant manager Aaron Browne gathered with the few other staff remaining to work out what to do.
“It was a drastic week,” Mr Browne says, with trade slowing in the days leading up to the official shutdown. “It was getting harder. A lot of things were happening around the world.
“I had 20 staff before and now there’s just three of us.”
But they had an adaptation advantage over many pubs which were focussed just on alcohol sales: Fibber was opened up by publican John Little in 1998 and was far ahead of the gastropub trend, and had built a reputation on high end cuisine. Behind the cosy bar is an immaculate dining room, and from pre-shutdown visits the Voice can confirm the fare is top notch.
They adapted fast, becoming part grocery store, part takeaway restaurant.
“Luckily we had a bottleshop licence before,” Mr Browne says, so they can keep selling the stock of alcohol. “We’ve been here 21 years, we’ve got a good name, people know us and they know we sell good quality food.”
The extra produce that’d normally go into the kitchen is now on sale as groceries for anyone who’s not keen on braving a supermarket: Irish soda bread, fruit and veg, and their dry aged steaks they hang for a minimum of 31 days.
The kitchen’s still running and they’ve adapted some of the restaurant menu for takeaway too.
Like many independent restaurants, the ~30 per cent of the overall price UberEats takes just for delivery is too much to take right now, so they’re sticking to takeaway only, sold right from the open shop front without anyone having to enter.
There’s no end date set for the dining restriction. If this goes on for three months, it’ll be a tough ride, Mr Browne says.
“It is working. We are making some money. Not a lot of money… but there’s no other option.
“It’s either do this, try to earn some money, or stay at home on the couch.”
Hospitality staff have borne the brunt of the shutdown measures. Many like Mr Browne are from overseas and aren’t eligible for the jobkeeper program. He’s sponsored by the business and can’t work elsewhere.
But he didn’t want to head back to Ireland: Flights back were exorbitant as coronavirus bloomed mid-March, hitting $12,000. And after six years here he’s keen on sticking this out in Australia. If he flew back and Fibber’s was to reopen in a few months, the borders might stay closed long term.
The customers over the past few weeks have been a mix of familiar faces and newcomers wanting to support the business.
“We’re getting a lot of support from the Irish community,” he says. “And we get new customers. We’ve got customers coming in the past couple of weeks we didn’t know before.
711 Newcastle St, Leederville
Noon to 8pm every day except Tuesday
Daily specials at facebook.com/FibberMcGeesPerth
0459 922 008