“A shocking time”: Melbourne’s retailers and hospitality businesses struggling to survive, as Andrews keeps them in lockdown

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Hospitality and retail businesses in Melbourne’s Chapel Street precinct are reeling from yesterday’s Melbourne roadmap update, with many left wondering how they’re going to make it through the year.

While the curfew has been scrapped and over 127,000 workers will return onsite this week, the announcement has shown little change for small businesses across retail and hospitality.

Barber of Prahran owner Babak Hamrahi speaks to SmartCompany about his concern for the state of his new business.

“It’s a shocking time for me. I just opened my business,” says Hamrahi.

“I hope to survive, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

General manager of Chapel Street Precinct Association (CSPA) Chrissie Maus voiced concerns in a statement yesterday, explaining that local businesses are “wrung out”.

“The Premier set an expectation that he did not meet in reality.

“Our business community is desperate to restart our economy in the safest way possible. Despite just one active case in Stonnington and non-existent community transmissions, our Chapel Street precinct businesses are being left to wonder if the Premier is trying to save his own job, or the economy!” 

Maus explained that some of the businesses located within the precinct are hanging on by a thread.

“For perspective, some of our businesses have not made a cent since mid-March,” she said.

“To everyone not in Melbourne thinking we have ‘not long to go’, that’s sadly incorrect.

“Significant changes such as businesses opening, the lifting of the curfew and the 5km rule are still in place for more crippling weeks.”

“Leading the way with COVIDsafe mitigation”

CSPA executive chairperson Justin O’Donnell doesn’t see why businesses in the precinct can’t reopen considering the highly monitored and regulated COVIDsafe retail and hospitality environments.

“With active cases across the entire City of Stonnington now at only one, surely we can, at last, reopen our businesses, even if there are travel restrictions in place,” said O’Donnell.

“At least let us open to locals so we can all get back out and support them,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell believes retailers and hospitality business owners are more than equipped to do the right thing ever since COVIDsafe workplaces were a requirement from the first Melbourne lockdown earlier this year.

“Our Chapel Street precinct businesses were leading the way with COVIDsafe mitigation when we opened post-wave one.

“To not reward businesses for all the great work they’ve done previously is a further kick in the guts!”

Trying to keep it together

Speaking to SmartCompany, owner of Hoo Haa bar and Miss Kuku restaurant Paul Kasteel is worried about the future, and labels the government plan for outdoor dining a “pipedream dreamt up by academics and health professionals”.

“Outdoor dining is not going to cut it for hospitality,” he says.

“We work on really low margins. Financially, we’re operating off a cliff.”

As Kasteel’s bar operates on the first floor of its Chapel Street location, he’s concerned about how he will adapt to suit a summer of outdoor dining.

“We can manage the risk a lot more safely inside. Ten to 20 people on the street is appalling.”

“The timing for us in Vic is quite bad … I’m losing $2,000–2,500 a week.”

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