After a string of closures, hope looms that Penrith’s hospitality scene will rise again

Jessica Jenkins from Mr Watkin's and Elton Chong. Photo: Melinda Sanders.
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Penrith has experienced a slew of hospitality closures recently, but the operator of two popular local venues says there’s still a desire for late-night spots in the city.

Jessica Jenkins has been operating Mr Watkins and Elton Chong on Penrith’s High Street for years and understands just how difficult hospitality can be.

“I think hospitality has always been a difficult industry, and they’re difficult businesses to run,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins has watched as a number of neighbouring venues have closed their doors in recent times, including Duck Duck Goose, AG Bar and The Bavarian.

Jessica Jenkins from Mr Watkin’s and Elton Chong. Photo: Melinda Sanders.

But she is confident the community wants to stay local for a night out.

“I feel like people in Penrith don’t want to go to the city and they don’t want to go to Parramatta, they want to stay local and I think there are some really great night-time places for people to go to [in Penrith],” Jenkins said.

“We’ve got a really diverse offering around here.”

In a potential game-changer, Elton Chong has recently been granted extended trading hours and will now operate until 2am on selected nights.

“We were just finding that it was cutting short our trading time because we had to do last calls at 11.40pm,” Jenkins said.

“If there were people hanging around we had to shove them out the door.

“So we just wanted a bit of leeway with that to be like, ‘OK, we are having a cracker night and people are having a great time, and there is no issues, we can roll past midnight without any repercussions or fines’.”

Customer satisfaction during this economic period is undeniably paramount according to Jenkins.

“I think we are probably at the lowest point of this economic downturn at the moment, and I think what is really important is making people feel like they’ve had value for money,” Jenkins said.

“They don’t want to walk away feeling ripped off, because yes it’s not as cheap or it costs a little bit more than it used to.

“But, I think that if they have had awesome service, awesome hospitality [and] great food, they’ve walked away with a really good experience they’ll be happy to do again and that’s really important at the moment.”

There are signs that things are improving in Penrith. A number of new venues have opened on High Street, while Chechos has recently been brought back from the dead with new owners.

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