Southern Tasmanian businesses adapting to survive snap COVID lockdown

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Provided by ABC Business Angie Nichols is still working at her cafe but is only offering takeaways. (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Tasmanian hospitality businesses who were preparing for a bumper weekend are hoping for government assistance after southern Tasmania’s three-day lockdown forced them to shut their doors to dine-in customers.

Restaurants and cafes are only allowed to provide takeaway service during the lockdown, with businesses taking innovative approaches to avoid throwing away huge amounts of spoiled food. 

The snap shutdown was ordered after a COVID-positive man fled hotel quarantine last Monday and was in the community for 18 hours.

No new cases were recorded on Saturday, the first day of the lockdown, but whether the state can reopen as planned on Monday at 6pm will depend on testing and tracing. 

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief executive Michael Bailey said hospitality businesses who had stocked up expecting a busy weekend of trade needed financial support. 

“We had cricket in the south, a range of festivals and events and things happening, it’s obviously a big blow for those businesses,” he said.

“Many had stocked up and even with their best efforts with takeaway, they’re not going to be able to get through the sorts of stocks that people are holding, so that will go waste.

“Obviously they’ll do what they can to get it out into the community but in reality, they will be donating to charities rather than something they can make a quid out of.

“That sort of support of government will really help those businesses that have been battling for the last few years as well.”

Mr Bailey said he had been working with Small Business Minister Jane Howlett about support for hospitality businesses doing it tough and the response had been “really positive”.

Premier Peter Gutwein said on Saturday that the government would do what it could to support businesses. 

Angie Nichols said her North Hobart cafe had quickly pivoted to takeaway service once the lockdown was declared, but business had been slow.  

“It seems like everyone stocked up at the supermarket because we’ve been very quiet today,” she said.

“We’ve done what we can, frozen what we can, but there will unfortunately be some food that goes to waste, but that’s how it is.”

Ms Nichols said the business had cancelled the shifts of most of its casual workforce, instead operating with a “skeleton crew” of full-time staff.

“Our businesses are strong enough and we have been planning for this for some time, so we planned to weather out the storm financially as a business, but for our casual staff that live week to week, I feel for them,” she said. 

Lucy Baker, the owner of a popular Moonah restaurant, said the lockdown had cost it about $70,000 in takings and lost produce. 

She said the business “wasn’t prepared at all” for the lockdown and had been ready for a busy weekend serving about 800 patrons. 

Facing the prospect of dumping huge amounts of food in the bin, the restaurant sold a range of steaks and other produce on social media, selling about $10,000 worth of goods in a matter of hours.

“Obviously it’s quite hectic once you do put it up on social media and you do try to sell it, it’s just like a hotline on the phone,” she said.

“Our customers are so incredibly supportive, it absolutely blows me away.

“Some customers even came in with a few hundred dollars and said what we can get, they don’t even care, they’re just doing it to support (us) which just blows my mind.”

Ms Baker said the business was in a strong enough financial position to survive the lockdown without state government support, but would need assistance, like the JobKeeper program, if the lockdown was extended. 

Another prominent Hobart bakery opted to close completely over the three-day period.

“We will be completely closed over the next three days, not even takeaway or wholesale,” the business posted on Facebook.

“Please stay at home. Then the problem will be solved quickly. Thanks for your understanding and patience.”

Hobart show’s fate uncertain

Royal Hobart Show organiser Scott Gadd said it was “devastating” the lockdown had been declared so close to the show taking place, after it was cancelled last year. 

“We’re proceeding as if we will go ahead but I guess it’s a 50/50 chance at this stage, or maybe even worse than that,” Mr Gadd said.

[Hobart radius tool]

“We’re just going to wait until Monday, see what evolves over the weekend, see what the advice from the government and public health is and make a final call on Monday.”

“The problem is though we’ve lost three critical days set up.

“So the other question we’ve got to deal with is, can we actually get it set up in one days and two nights and we’re just working through those issues now.”

Mr Gutwein said it was too early to say if the show could go ahead.

“I’ll await public health advice over the next couple of days, and we’ll wait to see how testing proceeds and what the results are of that testing over the next 48 hours,” he said.

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