Sydney’s northern beaches businesses seek urgent financial relief over COVID closures

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The end of the three-week lockdown at Sydney’s northern beaches is being met with joy from residents, but many business owners fear it will not bring the relief they need to stay afloat.

The 70,000 residents living north of the Narrabeen Bridge have been in lockdown since December 19 and will adopt the same restrictions as Greater Sydney from 12:01am on Sunday.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the decision was made to move out of lockdown despite some “anxiety” around an untraced COVID-19 case in the area.

In an attempt to help businesses who struggled during the lockdown, the State Government has included the area in its pilot hospitality and experience vouchers stimulus package.

It has also promised an additional relief package, but no details have been revealed.

However, a raft of small businesses outside of the hospitality industry fear they will fall through the cracks if a broader support package does not arrive soon.

Yesterday, a dozen business owners in the Northern Zone who fall outside of, or on the periphery of, the hospitality industry held a COVID-safe meeting to discuss fears they had been forgotten.

It was hosted by caterer Karin Slade, who is contemplating the fact her business of 26 years might not survive.

“There’s a lot of businesses that are under the radar that people don’t even think about that have been affected, and there’s flow on effects,” she said.

While lifting the lockdown was a start, Ms Slade said there was long road ahead while restrictions on gatherings remained in place.

“It got announced that we’re open on Sunday, but that hasn’t brought any relief because for most of us that isn’t going to make any difference right now,” she said.

“You can’t throw a party with just five people, so many businesses are affected by the fact you can’t get together.

“We need numbers, and we need this damn thing to go away.”

Sonia Stackhouse runs arts, crafts, and lifestyle workshops, and had been relying on the prospect of a reasonable Christmas trade period to try and keep her business going.

“It’s normally a booming time for us, particularly after the year we’ve had … it was a chance to recover,” she said.

“We were really excited, we were booked out, this was the time for us to get back on our feet after a really tough year, so to have that stripped away from us so suddenly … it’s crushing.”

Her classes were considered non-essential and so she had to shut-up shop, clearing a fully booked calendar and donating or discarding thousands of dollars in perishable materials.

Ms Stackhouse said she was desperate for clarification on what Government support package might be coming, and feared if it was not delivered soon, her business would fall over.

“I’m trying not to look past one week at a time, but if we don’t get some sort of help soon I don’t know if we’re going to be here, I really don’t,” she said.

“Like so many businesses, it’s crunch time.”

Also feeling the crunch is Melanie Kypri, whose formal-wear store relies on people dressing up for events like weddings and large parties.

“Why would anyone be interested in dressing up at the moment, there’s absolutely no need,” she said.

Ms Kypri said business had just started picking up again when the northern beaches were locked down.

A bed and breakfast which usually helped supplement Ms Kypri’s income also sat empty during what should have been its peak time of the year.

“I’m just living week to week at the moment,” she said.

“I’m 60 now, you know I don’t want to be flogging a dead horse but it’s a business that I’ve had for 17 years.

“It’s been a fantastic business, and I’d like to think that we can keep moving with it, but we need a bit of help.”

At this point she said the help she really needed, until people can throw parties again, was money.

Some business owners were also concerned that customers from outside the Northern Zone might not return after the lockdown lifted because they had moved on to competitors elsewhere, or feared the virus was still circulating.

Ms Slade said asking for help went against the grain for many of the business owners she knew but it had reached a point where they needed clarity on what support might be on the horizon.

“I feel like we’re in a fog, and I don’t know when we’re coming out of it, so I don’t know how to plan,” she said.

“We’re not people that want money from the Government, we just need support to keep us going.

“We’re all worker bees, my mates that own businesses, we’re all workers, we don’t want to be not working. But right now, we’re not sustainable.”

By James Carmody (Original ABC Article)

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