Victoria lockdown a ‘kick in the gut’ to businesses

Victoria’s latest lockdown is expected to leave businesses a further one billion dollars in the red, with industry groups and the opposition demanding immediate state government report support. Joining me now live is Katie Parker, the events manager of the restaurant The George on Collins. Katie, appreciate your time. What’s the cost of this lockdown?

Oh, I don’t do the calculations, but it’s very large. We were set up for the best week of the year, yet it finally felt like things were back to normal in the city. And yeah, it’s taken a big hit for our business. We’ve rescheduled about 20 events. Yeah, it was just unbelievable the week we’re about to have in terms of business. And unfortunately, that’s all been wiped off and having to be either rescheduled or refunded.

So it’s a huge loss.

It was meant to be a big wake. Your biggest wake of the year, as you just said. What happens now? How do you manage it with staffing and events themselves?

So we basically get in touch with all of the events and we try and reschedule them for a later date. So, of course, we’d love to keep that business. Most clients have been really great and rescheduling, but we’re actually so busy that there are some dates that we just can’t offer clients because they’ve already booked out. So they probably will be quite a few refunds that have to be processed as well, which is really unfortunate if we can’t move the event to a later date.

And then in regards to staffing, yeah, that’s obviously some big wage bills or the full-timers. But who we really feel sorry for, the casual staff that obviously count only shifts each week to survive and pay their bills and now they’re without any help, you know, so we really feel for them.

Prior to this lockdown, had a business just started getting back to some sort of a normal routine and normality, I would one hundred percent say so. It finally felt like, yeah, there were a lot of people back in the city and we didn’t have any capacity restrictions anymore. So that’s been fantastic, being able to put everything. And a lot of people have wanted to come back to the city and have been dining with us, have been drinking with us, have been having events with us.

We’re open for lunch, dinner late at night as well as at the weekend. So we’re open for a lot of hours. And, yeah, it’s really been fantastic. The last month, I would say, has really picked up. So it was just, to be honest, a bit of a kick in the gut this week with the lockdown. We’re all feeling a bit wounded and yeah, really struggling with having to close our doors yet again. The food wastage, the wage bills, everything.

Yeah, it’s just a lot for Lockdown’s now. This one seemingly came out of nowhere. Can the business survive?

Our business, luckily, I feel the answer is yes, just because we have had such since we’ve reopened, we’ve had a lot of event bookings, a lot of people dining with us. So we’ve been very fortunate to really get back on our feet. And a lot of people have booked events with us on Fridays if we can’t accommodate them on Saturday. So we’ve really and then during the week, we have corporate events as well. So I think we’re lucky that we’ve had a really good last few months.

So we should be OK for a week. But it doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of costs that need to be covered, unfortunately, by the owners. And obviously, that’s really hard for them. I just really pray and hope that it’s no longer than seven days because that’s going to be a real struggle, a big struggle for our business. And then we’ll have to look at doing the delivering heat and eat meals at home again where people recook them themselves.

So we’ll have to pivot the business again. But a lot of people would be out of work like we have about 60 or 70 staff between kitchen floor and bars. So now that’s just two of us are working the phones and emails and whatnot and everybody else is on leave or casual staff are just without work. So that’s really hard.

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