Sydney bookshop owner Anna Low says she is working on new ways to support local authors in her community, as the ongoing spectre of coronavirus restrictions dim the prospect of holding regular events for her patrons.
Low has owned and operated the Potts Point Bookshop in inner-city Sydney for 14 years and was able to keep trading throughout the entire pandemic, moving to click and collect and delivery options during last year’s national lockdown.
Her team of six had recently “dipped their toes” back into organising events, running one “hugely successful” author event that Low says showed a healthy appetite in their local community for occasions that bring readers together.
But she admits she is now apprehensive about planning for another, even once the current restrictions in Sydney end. It’s not only the financial and time commitments that go into organising events, says Low, but rather the potential health implications while large sections of the community remain unvaccinated.
“It’s not a fear, but the idea that you might create a super spreader event,” she says.
The pandemic has had a devastating toll on local artists, says Low, and this includes authors who have new books coming out and who may miss the opportunity to meet readers in person.
“We have a lot of local authors in our community so I’m thinking of other ways to support them,” she says.
Low’s bookshop’s location in Elizabeth Bay puts it in close proximity to some of the latest exposure sites in Sydney.
While New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has so far chosen not to place the state or its capital city into lockdown, she announced a stay-at-home order for residents of Woolhara, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney on Friday morning.
Additionally, the restrictions that came into effect on Wednesday afternoon for other parts of Greater Sydney and NSW have also been extended.
For Low’s store, until today, the restrictions had meant limiting the number of visitors to her store to one per four square metres, and ensuring everyone was wearing a mask. As the store is located in the City of Sydney area, it will be subject to the tougher restrictions, which are expected to last one week.
While Low says the mood in the Potts Point community is not as panicked as it was in March 2020 when the pandemic was taking hold across the country, she says this time around, it is “feeling a lot closer to home”.
“There’s just a lot less people on the street,” she says. “It was amazing how people got off the streets so quickly.”
“People are being cautious … they are very concerned and looking at NSW Health and saying, they are doing an amazing job with contract tracing.”
Low’s business was able to access JobKeeper payments last year, which she said gave her the “confidence to go on” during the height of the COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia. Since then the store has experienced a downturn, as travel restrictions and remote work have encouraged locals to spend more in their community.
But she says other businesses in Potts Point, including restaurants, cafes and bars, are “losing so much” and “desperately need support”.
The difficulty, says Low, is that this need to impose restrictions, in NSW and elsewhere, “could go on for years … it could actually go on for some time”.