NSW businesses are desperate for support


Summer on Bondi Beach is said to be a blessing for bookstore cafe Gertrude and Alice.

Instead, the store loses money every day just for opening its doors.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in NSW skyrocketed amid the Omicron wave, the past two months have put the company in its worst position ever, says Jane Turner, owner of 21.

“We might as well be in lockdown,” she told AAP.

The pandemic had already caused the store to halve its hours, but the impact of the recent outbreak has meant it’s often difficult to even staff those hours.

Half of its employees have been unable to work in recent weeks after contracting COVID or becoming a close contact.

Her landlord and regular customers have been exceptionally generous, Ms Turner said, but support from the wider community has waned and people are very wary of coming out.

“The accountant said you probably have six months on that rate,” she said.

“We have already used up all our savings.

“We could walk away with nothing.”

The employees feel the stress too. They volunteer their own time to deliver pastries and packages of books to people who are isolated, just to help the family business keep going.

Still, Ms Turner may have to lay off some next week, a thought that has kept her up at night crunching numbers.

Without government support “it just doesn’t look good”.

“I understand the government isn’t a bottomless pit … nobody wants our kids to pay off this huge debt,” she said.

“And yet it begs the question, ‘How do we keep these people busy?’.”

The situation is similar with the coffee roasting company Mecca Coffee, which also operates two cafés.

One in the heart of the ‘ghost town’, Sydney’s central business district, has remained closed. The other, in the inner-city suburb of Alexandria, isn’t faring much better.

The 50-60 seater dining room has been closed, only a limited takeaway menu is being offered.

“It almost feels a little bit worse than lockdown,” chief roaster Daniel May told AAP.

“Maybe that’s more of a psychological thing — knowing that you can be open, but you have to close.”

Staff shortages and reduced patronage as people try to avoid the virus have left the store’s cafe section in trouble. The sales side is also badly affected.

“Cafes and bars are the pulse of the economy and when they’re quiet, we’re quiet,” Mr May said.

“It has consequences for us.”

He, too, would like to see a little more support offered to businesses, especially in the hospitality sector.

The Prime Minister has been promising for days that aid is on the way, saying the Treasurer has been in consultation with companies and an announcement is imminent.

During the Delta lockdown in 2021, both the state and federal governments participated in payments to companies that lost more than 30 percent of their sales.

“As a government, we have always prioritized supporting businesses and our workers over the budget,” Dominic Perrottet told reporters on Wednesday.

“I can assure businesses across the state, just like we have for the past two years, we’ve got your back.”


Comments are closed.