Thousands of hospitality workers in the Hunter had been stood down on Monday afternoon as a result of the closure of licensed venues across the region.
While casual workers have been losing shifts for weeks due to falling patronage, the introduction of the government's midday lockdown sent the industry into unchartered territory.
Thousands of dollars worth of stock was returned to suppliers or disposed of.
By early afternoon notices advising that venues were closed until further notice had been placed in the doors of pubs and clubs across the Hunter.
"It's absolutely desperate times for people, especially migrant workers who have no one to fall back on," a spokeswoman for the United Workers Union said.
Nationally, the union estimates 8442 shifts valued at $1.3million has been lost in the sector in the past week.
It is calling on the government to provide direct support to hospitality workers in addition to the measures announced on Sunday.
"Hospitality workers need urgent action now or we will find they are not able to pay their bills, put food on their tables or keep a roof over their heads."
The Wests Group, which operates venues in Newcastle, New Lambton, Mayfield, Cardiff, and Nelson Bay, stood down hundreds of staff.
Chief executive Phil Gardner reiterated staff had not been sacked.
"No staff have lost their jobs, we have been locked down by the government and as such staff have been stood down until the lockdown is lifted hopefully asap," he said.
It was a similar story at Belmont 16s.
"We wish all of our members and community stakeholders all the best and stand in solidarity with our industry partners, as we all navigate the challenging road ahead. We are all in this together and we will rebuild as a more connected community," a message on the club's Facebook page said.
The Hunter's smaller venues were also hurting.
"We really don't know how long it's going to last- a month, three months, six months," Adamstown Bowling Club's secretary manager Todd Rizzoli said.
"We should be able to restart but a lot will depend on what the government does."
The club's five casual staff have been laid off. Mr Rizzoli and the greenkeeper will stay on in a limited capacity.
"The greens still need to be maintained. That's a cost to the club but we don't have any income."
Last drinks, thousands of dollars worth of stock returned
"It's just very sad." Michelle Ramplin spoke for thousands of Hunter hospitality workers and business owners as she poured the last drinks at the Northern Star Hotel in Beaumont St, Hamilton on Monday morning.
Ms Ramplin, the hotel's licensee, was in the process of shutting the business down to comply with the government's midday deadline.
Among the list of tasks to perform was the return of thousands of dollars of unused stock, like beer kegs, to their respective suppliers.
"We are going to take some heavy losses, but so are a lot of people," Ms Ramplin said.
"We have been lucky because our bank has suspended our loan and lease repayments."
Like elsewhere, the hotel's 22 casual staff have been laid off until further notice.
"They have been extremely understanding and are keen to return as soon as possible," Ms Ramplin said.
While she hopes the shutdown will last a fortnight, Ms Ramplin is preparing for the worst.
"The longer it goes the harder it will be to restart," she said.
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