Businesses plead for government support under ‘shadow lockdown’

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“We had a lot of people saying, ‘Wait, wait. But what do we hold on to? I don’t know how many more negative forces can be applied to a business. “

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Things are also bad in Victoria’s holiday hotspots. Inverloch Esplanade hotel general manager Dylan Clark said many restaurants and cafes were closing and tourists were packing up and heading home in droves.

“On Mondays there was a place where you could order food out of about a dozen,” he said.

Mr Clark said that in a normal year his handling of the Christmas and Australia Day periods represents between 20 and 25 per cent of his annual turnover “and we already have almost missed an entire week of that.

“It literally affects everyone and is hitting coastal areas very hard right now. In the week before our [kitchen] closing, we were making about 800 meals a day. We had to slowly reduce this return before closing completely.

Keziah Lowden, manager of Lemon Tree cafe in Shepparton, said: “I think everyone is struggling. It was busy… late December and early January because a lot of other hospitality venues had closed. But since then, activity has slowed down considerably and “it’s very calm”.

Credit:Matt Golding

Australian Industry Group Victorian chief Tim Piper said Omicron’s “double whammy” meant there was a case for further government aid.

“Businesses, especially in areas like retail and hospitality, are likely to get into real trouble, and that glitch is that they are not supported by the government and are not getting either plus the trade they need.”

The state government remains optimistic that the Omicron wave will begin to dissipate in late January or early February, meaning the pain would be relatively short-lived. Merlino said the government was trying to strike the right balance between protecting the public and allowing businesses to continue operating.

“I don’t have any announcements today, so I really can’t expand any further,” he said Wednesday. “We have had significant supports in place for businesses over the last two years of the pandemic, and what we have done is, again, to find the right balance between what are the public health parameters to ensure the security of Victorians and what are the parameters to ensure that we can keep the economy running.

Chrissie Maus, chief executive of Chapel Street Precinct, which represents 2,200 businesses, said that with more than a third of staff working in the virus-hit Chapel Street area, “we need our government to come up with solutions to help quickly. We’re in the eye of a perfect storm: Deferred payroll taxes and wage increases take effect now. Chapel Street Precinct is at a critical point and needs government cash support.

Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said governments were stuck in a “wait and watch” scenario.

“I know many state governments and certainly the federal government has told us time and time again billions and billions of dollars that have been spent in the past,” he told ABC Radio, “but we continue to say, ‘It’s today, no matter what we’ve done in the past; we need help now and in the future. “

Acting chief executive of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry Scott Veenker said federal and state governments should offer free rapid antigen tests to small and medium-sized businesses and increase the list of essential workers who do not are not subject to isolation requirements if they test negative.

Barrie Elvish, chief executive of AUSActive, said the problems in the health and fitness industry had been compounded by the fact that many people employed in the industry had left due to the uncertainty of the shutdowns.

“We have lost more than half of our workforce,” he said. “So restocking is going to be a short-term issue as we wait for new personal trainers who come through the VET sector or the university sector.”

Recent data released by ANZ showed consumer spending fell to its lowest levels since the Delta shutdowns. He found that spending in Melbourne in the week to January 5 was similar to lockdown conditions.

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