FIRST came the economic lifeline, then news of a comprehensive shutdown of everything deemed non-essential, including pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars.
For the Hunter's many small business owners, Sunday was another unbelievable day during an unprecedented period of stress and uncertainty.
The federal government announced on Sunday morning a $66 billion stimulus package for small businesses, sole-traders and casual workers in a bid to keep business afloat and workers employed through the coronavirus crisis.
The economic lifeline was welcomed by business owners and the Hunter Business Chamber, who praised the move to award small businesses with cash payments of up to $100,000 and give welfare recipients another $750, as well as temporarily doubling the Jobseeker Payment. Then on Sunday afternoon, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW was proceeding to a more "comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services" over the next 48 hours, effectively forcing the closure of all pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars as well as hundreds of other businesses deemed non-essential.
In the wake of the premier's announcement, Happy Wombat publican Luke Tilse said the popular pub would be closed from Monday for the foreseeable future, just 48 hours after they held Mini Fest, a scaled-down and coronavirus-compliant event in place of Newcastle Beer Fest.
Dozens of other local publicans and restaurant owners are expected to follow suit in the next 24 hours.
Mr Tilse said Saturday's event would serve as a last hurrah for the pub for now after he had worked diligently to comply with the government's guidelines around capacity and punters per square metre.
And, perhaps more typically than some may think, Mr Tilse had welcomed not just the stimulus package but the order to close the pub, saying it took the decision out of the hands of desperate small business owners who were operating at a loss, struggling to continue employing staff and battling daily with the competing interest of trying to fill the pub but not help spread the virus.
"They should shut us all down because we're all trying to comply but our job is to get people into the spaces we have," Mr Tilse said. "That is how we measure our success. "That is the issue; we are what coal mines are to climate change. We are virus propagation. "We are the problem. I am happy to be shutdown, if we are compensated and supported financially."
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the stimulus package would provide much-needed relief and breathing space to many businesses feeling the impact of coronavirus.
"The measures provide some comfort during these challenging times when business owners are thinking primarily about their capacity to pay their staff, their rent and their existing suppliers," Mr Hawes said. "They directly address some concerns expressed to us by our members over the past week, including non-employing businesses that find themselves out of work. "No employer wants to have to let staff go but if it becomes unavoidable those employees will at least have access to significantly more substantial benefits."