By Steph McNicol
BUSINESSES in Macedon Ranges Shire are able to remain open and functioning under stage two restrictions as the municipality is classified in the regional Victoria, which is not subject to lockdown measures.
Although not in stage three restrictions and locked down like the neighbouring shires of Mitchell and Hume, the effects are being felt across the Macedon Ranges.
Romsey’s Parklane Pit Stop Cafe owner Sharon Skinner said she felt trapped, with surrounding towns being locked down.
“It’s not easy, we are feeling surrounded, all the other communities are all under lockdown. We strangely feel trapped, you feel like you have to think about and plan your trips of where you need to go and what you need to do,” she said.
“It makes it hard in a business sense that we have so many delivery drivers or customers in this area that come through that are from other suburbs or other towns that are in lockdown and that makes it really hard to provide a good service to them.
“It’s hard for a lot of shops who have had to redo their whole business structure, like the way they serve customers, from sit-down cafes to takeaway. Adjusting to that makes it hard.”
Ms Skinner said her way of service had changed too, because she could only allow two customers inside at one time.
“We have to be fairly quick and prompt at serving people. You kind of lose that customer service, because you feel like you have to rush them to get them out because there are people waiting outside,” she said.
“You can’t have the one-on-one chat, but you also don’t want to say to people ‘oh you have to go’, you can also lose business because people don’t have the time to wait.
“You’ve got all those emotions going on, you’re trying to work, and trying to be safe, trying to be aware of the 1.5 metres, the hand sanitiser, so it puts a lot of strain on everybody.”
Despite the changed service requirements, Ms Skinner said she was happy to have her business remain open.
“I’m truly grateful that every day I can open the door, and there are some businesses I truly feel for – they’re struggling,” she said.
A business closing its doors to survive is Lancefield’s Cleveland Winery, as director of sales Mel Watson said a large portion of the business came from metropolitan Melbourne.
“With our main market coming out of Melbourne, we lost 80 to 90 per cent of our trade when the metro area and Mitchell Shire went into lockdown,” she said.
“As much as we would love to open up our restaurant to our locals and other regions in Victoria, the cost adds up significantly and it is not viable for us to make this work with a great offering that supports our brand.”
Ms Watson said the business had been significantly impacted since the first outbreak of the pandemic, and saw closing temporarily as the best option.
“Cleveland Winery specialises in group events such as weddings, conferences and special events, so we have been impacted pretty hard since the start of COVID-19,” she said.
“Business that was booked for the first half of this year was postponed or cancelled instantly.
“We do have great loyal clients who are awaiting for our doors to open to group business again that we are very grateful for, however with this second round of lockdown, it does get really hard for us to feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ms Watson said the team was hoping to re-assess its options to reopen in August.
“One thing remains and that is the friendliness and hardworking team of locals, that continue to adapt in this changing environment COVID-19 throws at us,” she said.
“We always have a high-spirited team that will provide a wonderful guest experience when the time is right again. They just ask for everyone to not forget about us.”
Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas said Macedon being free of lockdown meant movement was less restricted for the shire’s residents.
“This is a good time to remind everyone to shop local – we have great local family businesses across our region who need our support,” she said.
“Of course, many of our businesses rely on visitors from Melbourne, particularly our tourism operators.
“It’s important for people across our region to remember that we all have a part to play in making it to the other side of this crisis.
“If you feel sick, stay at home. If you have any symptoms, no matter how mild, please get tested.”