By Jackson Russell
With the State Government forcing businesses to close to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s taking its toll on Mitchell Shire small businesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating issues for businesses large and small who have been forced to close as part of the State Government’s mitigation measures, as well as challenges in dealing with employee safety and entitlements.
Last week, Jungle Kids Indoor Play Centre in Wallan East reported it was struggling to make ends meet after business started dwindling two weeks ago. On Sunday it announced it would temporarily close in line with government rules.
Despite stepping up its cleaning regime, the centre had just one customer last Tuesday and turned over $9, which wasn’t even enough to cover the day’s electrical bills.
Owner Kylie Shannon said she had to lay off most of her staff and was working by herself during the week with minimal staff on the weekend.
“Our trade has disappeared basically. People are afraid to come so you’re just doing what you can, hoping you’ll get through and not have to close down,” she said.
“For us, closing down is probably imminent because the overheads involved in a place like this are thousands of dollars a week.
“If you can’t produce that kind of money, how long is it until you can’t pay your bills?”
Ms Shannon said she and her staff had worked hard to make sure the business was safe for customers.
“We’re working overtime to make sure that everything’s clean, we’re not letting people come in if they look sick, we’ve got hand sanitiser, council’s health department just came in and gave us a full tick of approval,” she said.
“We’ve got some amazing people that are still coming in and supporting us and it just needs to be a little bit more unfortunately.”
Hospitality businesses have been hit hardest – Hogan’s Hotel in Wallan had to change most of its processes to keep up with the new information.
The hotel, along with the adjoining Pretty Sally Bakehouse, has introduced different options to continue to serve the community, including a new takeaway menu.
Both businesses will continue their breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings as well as takeaway alcohol while drive-through coffee will continue as normal.
The takeaway will operate out of the bakehouse for customers to pick up phone orders while the pub’s doors will be shut.
The hotel’s accomodation will also function as per normal, with an increased cleaning regime.
General manager Darren Freestone said it was a shock to the system.
“If people still feel the need not to come in, it’s an option for them to take that back home and we still have the offering for them,” he said.
Mr Freestone said the hotel may have to scale back its employment.
“We’re still trying to provide for the community but the scale’s down now which means employment opportunities have been lost as well,” he said.
Chef Amritpal Singh Atwal from Baba’s Kitchen, in Romsey and Seymour, said he was delivering meals to the elderly who were scared to leave their house.
“I saw an elderly woman struggling to get food in Seymour, she was outside the supermarket crying – that’s when I thought I could help,” Mr Atwal said.
Mr Atwal said his business, like many others had been strongly impacted by the pandemic.
“People are scared at the moment, for now I’m happy to help the elderly and those with low immunity,” he said.
The State Government now has a hotline for businesses dealing with challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak with information on how to keep workplaces safe and how to plan for the current situation and likely developments.
The Business Victoria hotline is 13 22 15 or people can visit business.vic.gov.au