Dance studio fights for survival


By Oliver Lees

Following eight months of interrupted trading, Amy Citroen has lost her financial safety net and now faces a fight to keep her business open.

As the owner of dance company Signature Allstarz based in Kyneton and Sunbury, Amy has been dependent on the federal government’s fortnightly JobKeeper payments to stay afloat for months, as strict lockdown measures forced the business to a limited online capacity.

The JobKeeper payment was wound up on March 28.

Classed within the fitness industry, Ms Citroen, a mother of two, says her dance studio is still in the early stages of recovery, unlike other businesses that have had several months to get back on their feet.

“If we had another three to four months, we would be fine, because numbers are picking up slowly,” she said.

“There are a lot of demoralised kids, their enthusiasm was dampened by doing classes online and not having the engagement of in-person classes.

“Now it’s a question of whether we’ll be able to survive.”

Moving classes online meant Ms Citroen had to slash prices for her customers and had to let go four of her casual staff members, who were ineligible for the JobKeeper payment.

She’s calculated her personal wage will be cut by 75 per cent to keep operations running without the supplement.

She said her financial trajectory was disproportionately affected by the pandemic and government imposed lockdowns.

“Looking at the way business has been held back in Victoria compared to other places, it would be nice to be given a proper go.”

Australian Government data for January reveals 580 businesses in the Sunbury postcode were still accessing the supplement, well above the state average of 233.

Sunbury Business Association president Michael Osborne said the “stop-start nature of restrictions has been very tough” for businesses in the area, with certain industries hit harder than others.

“The worst thing for business is not being able to plan,” Mr Osborne said.

A breakdown of ATO figures by sector found that whilst dependency on JobKeeper in retail dropped by 68 per cent, the transport, postal and warehousing sector has had a slower recovery, with only a 36 per cent drop in numbers reliant on the subsidy.

According to the 2016 Census, transport, postal and warehousing was Sunbury’s third largest employment sector.

Sunbury MP Josh Bull said he “would love to see JobKeeper extended beyond March”, but that ultimately the decision was to be made by the federal government.

“Our electorate has been hit hard, especially due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the aviation industry,” he said.

“It is clear that there are some sectors like aviation that will need support from the commonwealth well beyond the pandemic.”