Restrictions burden business


By Oliver Lees

Business owners in Sunbury and the Macedon Ranges continue to grapple with uncertainty as an extension of coronavirus restrictions sees different measures in place in metro Melboourne and regional Victoria.

Last week, a further seven days of stringent lockdown measures were announced for Sunbury residents as Victoria’s latest COVID-19 outbreak ballooned to more than 60 cases.

Located on O’shannassy Street in Sunbury, HomeGrown Gifts co-owner and mother of four Sharyn Snook has had to scale back her business hours to meet the new restrictions.

“We’re disappointed and a bit frustrated,” Ms Snook said.

“You can’t argue with the need to protect people’s health, but it worries me that the mental health of small businesses doesn’t seem to be as important as the physical health of the general public.

“I’m trying to save my business while also helping my kids. The stress of a working parent is worrying whether I am doing the right thing.”

Ms Snook said she would be applying for the state government’s Business Costs Assistance Program, which if successful would include a grant of up to $5000.

But Sunbury Business Association president Michael Osborne said the funding amount wouldn’t be enough for all businesses.

“For those in retail shops and hospitality doing it toughest this won’t go far, for some it won’t even cover their rent,” Mr Osborne said.

The National Retail Association (NRA) estimates that the 14 day lockdown will result in a $2 billion loss to the retail industry in metro areas.

NRA chief executive Dominique Lamb said the negative impact of limiting businesses’ capacity to trade will be ongoing.

“There will continue to be a lag in economic activity due to a dent in consumer confidence,” Mr Lamb said.

“Foot traffic across major shopping precincts worsens with each lockdown.”

Meanwhile in the Macedon Ranges, retail, beauty and personal care, entertainment and community facilities have reopened in line with new procedures and density limits.

Under the current restrictions regional businesses are required to check customers’ IDs, in order to reinforce guidelines that restrict individuals from metro areas entering regional areas.

Business Kyneton president Kate Fairley said the easing of restrictions won’t benefit all businesses.

“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge to keep up with the new procedures, they’re necessary of course but also a burden,” she said.

“I know for a fact that there is a new bar in Kyneton that still won’t be able to open because of the density limits, and I’ve heard from tradesmen that are losing thousands of dollars a day.”

Ms Snook said everybody can play a part in helping small businesses survive.

“The only way that we can keep small business, and keep business local, is to look at what we’ve got and try to support it as much as we can.”