Businesses still crippled by restrictions as lockdown eases


With the ACT lockdown officially ending last night, many businesses are expected to reopen under reduced but still limited restrictions until October 29, when they will ease further.

Despite this, several leading organizations say that the remaining restrictions will still significantly reduce the ability of many companies to trade.

“For many businesses, unfortunately, today is a day of frustration rather than freedom. Frustration that there is so much risk involved in opening up that it really can’t be done, ”said Graham Catt, CEO of the Canberra Business Chamber.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has always championed his government’s “public health first” approach to ease the lockdown in the face of such criticism.

“This ensures that the safest activities begin again and that the riskiest ones wait until more of our population is fully immunized,” Barr said.

“Open up too early, have another outbreak, the loss of consumer confidence will be devastating and therefore a fully vaccinated Canberra is a much safer Canberra in the long run. “

Rules “unacceptable for small businesses”

Phillip Business Community president and Canberra Martial Arts and Fitness owner Tom Adam will run his martial arts studio as a gym for two weeks so he can reopen his business under current restrictions. Photo: Denholm Samaras.

The Legislative Assembly’s Special Committee on the Response to the COVID-19 2021 Pandemic, chaired by Canberra Liberal Leader Elizabeth Lee, held a session yesterday where they heard from seven business representatives from Canberra.

Phillip Business Community president and Canberra Martial Arts and Fitness owner Tom Adam told the hearing he will run his business as a gym for the next two weeks until he is cleared to take over. lessons.

The process of transforming his martial arts studio into a gym for two weeks of exchange led him to complete 52 hours of work over four days between Monday 11 and Thursday 14 October.

“The only way for me to survive in my business for the next six weeks is to completely change my business model,” he said. “This is unacceptable for a small business.”

Mr Adam said any profits he had made between reopening in mid-2020 and this lockdown had been “completely wiped out” in the past nine weeks.

“That leaves us very little at the end of this to be able to maintain even keeping the businesses open and fight until the end of the year,” he said.

Australian Hotels Association (AHA) ACT chief executive Anthony Brierley said the four square meter rule would restrict Canberra hotel businesses to around 25% of their normal footfall.

“At this level of sponsorship, the revenues of a hotel business are considerably overweighted by its opening costs,” he said.

According to Barr, the next step in the Path, as of October 29, allows a “significant increase” in activity.

From that point on, licensed venues, cafes and restaurants will operate with a maximum of 25 people site-wide before density limits apply of one person per four square meters up to 100 customers. inside, or one person per two square meters up to 150 outside.

“At this point, we would expect our fully immunized population to be over 80%,” Barr said.

“Ultimately, economic activity is entirely tied to the success of the public health response.”

Despite these planned changes, Mr Brierley said “quite a few” sites in Canberra would not bother to reopen until much later in the year.

I know some of Canberra’s iconic hotel companies… that have no plans, under the current roadmap, to do business by December.

Anthony Brierley, CEO of AHA ACT.

Canberra businesses reopen Quiet Braddon Cafe restrictions
The AHA ACT says the four square meter rule will limit Canberra hotel businesses to about 25% of their normal footfall. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

Mr Brierley also expressed concern that even if ACT eases restrictions, financial support will be cut despite parameters leaving many hotel businesses unsustainable.

“This has never happened in any part of Australia throughout the pandemic. It will have devastating economic consequences for our industry,” he said.

The chief minister previously acknowledged that targeted support for the hospitality industry would be necessary because of the four square meter rule.

The Government’s ACT Business Hub notes that “businesses in the tourism, accommodation providers, arts and events, hospitality and fitness (TAPAEHF) sectors will also receive an additional top-up payment” in addition to the support grants. to COVID-19 businesses.

It’s a similar story of restrictions for the retail industry, where non-essential retailers can operate a click-and-collect and click-and-deliver service or have up to two people from the same household in a store. both by appointment made today.

Braddon United Retailers and Traders spokesperson Kel Watt said Canberra Weekly the online reservation requirements in place for retailers are simply impractical for the many small, locally run retailers that rely on foot traffic.

“It’s an incredibly expensive set of protocols that takes a tremendous amount of time,” Watt said.

“For small businesses… they just don’t have the time and capacity to run the online reservation system and have appointments open all working day.

“These small businesses need to put in place a whole new layer of bureaucracy and support they were never prepared for and it’s such a cost or a burden that they’ll choose not to stay open.”

Mr Watt called on the government to be more flexible in rectifying any trade restrictions that are incongruous or simply unworkable as they emerge.

“I know that no government official or member of the Assembly can think of every possible case and every possible inconsistency, but as they arise, be more responsive.”

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