Between lockdowns and lacklustre vaccination rates, this historic Brisbane bookshop is the latest casualty of COVID-19

folio books

Folio Books in Brisbane. Source: Facebook.

An independent bookstore established 42 years ago in Brisbane’s CBD has shuttered, with the owners citing COVID-19 as the final challenge in the history of their much-loved shop.

Folio Books — a family business co-owned by Alexis Kakoulidis, Angelos Kakoulidis and Jenny  — announced its closure on Saturday, citing COVID-19 as the most recent difficulty in a series of testing events including floods, relocations and the rise of global online book retailers.

“Today, we find ourselves in a situation where the continued impacts of COVID remain uncertain, coupled with the strain of relocation due to the demolition of our last premises at 133 Mary Street,” the co-owners said in a statement.

The three owners founded the shop in 1979 on Elizabeth Street prior to moving it to its current location on Mary Street. In the statement, they said family had always been core to everything they have done.

“Upon significant reflection and in line with this value, we have made the very difficult decision not to reopen for the foreseeable future,” they said.

The closure comes as southeast Queensland entered into a coronavirus lockdown of at least three days starting from 4pm Saturday.

Vaccination targets revealed  

On Friday, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the vaccination targets required before lockdowns will become unnecessary to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Morrison said about 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated for lockdowns to become less frequent and international travel restrictions to ease.

Australia is currently in Phase A of the government’s four-phase roadmap out of the pandemic, which involves ramping up the vaccine rollout and creating a vaccination certificate system.

Under Phase B, lockdowns will only be enforced in extreme circumstances and Phase C commits to no lockdowns and unrestricted domestic travel for vaccinated residents. In the final phase, vaccinated people will be allowed to enter and leave the country to travel.

“We will get to the next phase [Phase B] when Australia reaches 70% of the eligible population who are double dose vaccinated,” Morrison said on Friday.

“We will get to Phase C when we hit 8%.”

Calls for post-lockdown support 

With only 15% of Australians fully vaccinated, the prospect of ongoing lockdowns has prompted small business groups to call on the government for more business support.

Alexi Boyd, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, says shop vacancies and closures like Folio Books are rising this year as people’s spending habits change.

“The first wave of the virus had people going out and buying things to keep them entertained during lockdowns,” Boyd tells SmartCompany.

“What I’m hearing from members is that there’s less panic and bulk buying, which is causing a downturn in sales because people are being more careful about their spending.”

COSBOA is urging the federal and state governments to create a Business Rebuilder program to ensure businesses receive cashflow assistance even after lockdowns.

Boyd says now that there is some certainty about what business support is available this year, such as grants and JobSaver, it’s time to focus on helping businesses rebuild after restrictions are lifted.

“We can’t just turn off the tap of support once the lockdowns end,” she says.

“We’re looking for something that helps small businesses to continue to build because we’re in a different situation than we were at the start of the pandemic.”

COSBOA’s proposal includes a suite of support measures that kick in after an area is no longer considered a Commonwealth hotspot, including payroll tax waivers for six months, rental assistance, BAS payment waivers and grants for sole traders and micro businesses.

Under the proposal, commercial tenants could negotiate a reduction in rent with their landlords, with the gap between the current and negotiated amount paid by the state government for six months.

Sole traders with annual turnover over $75,000 would receive a one-off $10,000 payment in the first fortnight after the JobSaver program ends, while micro businesses with turnover between $30,000 and $75,000 could receive a one-off $5,000 payment.

“The critical time for business survival and job protection is the period immediately after the lockdown is lifted,” Boyd says.

SmartCompany has contacted Folio Books for comment. 

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