Lack of staff forces tavern closure

Mataura Licensing Trust general manager Mark Paterson.

Closing the door of one of its premises and limiting the opening hours of another is “a bleak day for Gore,” Mataura Licensing Trust general manager Mark Paterson says.

The trust’s board made the decision on Thursday last week to close the Longford Tavern “at this stage after trading” on December 4 and limit the opening hours of the Thomas Green Public House and Dining Room from this week.

Mr Paterson said a “mass of exodus of staff” had made it impossible to run the operations.

“We are in dire situations in terms of staff.”

Even though it was the Traffers Hotel which had been reduced in staff to a manager and duty manager, the board had decided to close the Longford Tavern.

“It’s pretty much a no-brainer.

“We’ve been backed into a corner and it is pretty much because of Covid.”

The Longford was the better choice because it was leased from the Gore Country Music Club, and Traffers had more gaming machines which meant more income could be filtered back to the community through the Trusts Community Foundation.

It also had a TAB.

“Longford has been unprofitable for a number of years whereas Traffers is not.”

The staff from the Longford would transfer to Traffers and other sites.

The Thomas Green was short of a manager, assistant manager, head chef, sous chef and duty manager.

From this week it would open from Thursday to Sunday until December 19 when its future was uncertain.

“At the 19th of December we have no-one to cook meals or run the place.”

The board had raised wages to try to keep staff.

“Staff are sick of getting abused, they’re sick of worrying about things that are coming including [Covid-19] traffic lights .. and they’re getting more money thrown at them cause every industry, every business is looking for staff .. and there’s only a finite number of staff in the district.”

The measures were not because the trust was in trouble.

“We owe no money and we’ve got solid cash flow.

“We’ve got enough money to survive.”

Gore Country Music Club president Julie Mitchell said the club bought the tavern from the MLT in 2007 and had leased it back to it ever since.

“We are sorry that the Mataura Licensing Trust has had to make such a difficult decision to announce the closure of the Longford Tavern.

“The club will continue to operate from the premises for our monthly club nights.”

The Hokonui Celtic Pipe Band and the Southern Sound Foundry were also based at the tavern.