Business owners on the northern beaches are pleading for help after experiencing devastating financial losses when the region was thrown into lockdown during the year’s busiest trading period.
With cases still being recorded daily, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has extended the COVID-19 stay-at-home rules for the northern part of the area until at least January 9.
Roz Ingram, who owns the Gym Factory in Warriewood along with her husband, said she fears the business won’t survive as it lost $300,000 in the lockdown earlier in the year.
RELATED: Sydneysiders lied their way into Queensland
All their savings have been exhausted and the couple were also forced to sell their cars, she added.
“The 12 weeks we were out of operation from March — we are still trying to get out of that one as people still haven’t come back to the gym or cancelled their memberships as they don’t feel so comfortable,” she told news.com.au.
“This could be the knock-out round, unfortunately.”
“We aren’t a franchise. We are a family-owned gym trying to get by. I don’t want to lose my house because of this. I feel like my hands are tied and it feels like I’m drowning. I don’t know if I can take any more mentally.”
Mrs Ingram, 54, called for the federal government to step up and offer business grants again, with the lockdown’s continual extensions taking a huge toll on her mental health.
“It’s the fact that we have no control and it’s something we haven’t put on ourselves,” she said.
“If our business had failed and let the gym go to wrack and ruin — it’s our fault. This isn’t our fault. We have the QR code, we have been spending so much money on cleaning, sometimes $2000 a week on cleaning and products, we are doing social distancing and we are back to this again.”
She added, “I heard they are talking about doing something in January. We can’t wait to January to get assistance. People won’t get to that — the small businesses will be closed.”
RELATED: Sydney cluster grows with several new cases
For David Singer, owner of Frenchies Brasserie at Elanora Heights, pivoting to takeaway and home packs during the last lockdown was a proud moment, but this time around he said the financial impact had been far more severe.
“We are probably at least 80 per cent down on revenue overall in the last few weeks,” he said.
“We tried to open for takeaway on Boxing Day and we took $43 revenue on a Saturday night and when you are paying staff $700 or $800 dollars it’s not very viable.”
Mr Singer, 54, said he knew “quite a lot of small operators on the northern beaches are feeling a bit left out”.
“Everyone is doing the right thing,” he said.
“They are closing, they are not opening for sit-down dining and many other non-hospitality businesses are doing the same as well. We are now at the point with insolvency laws due to change back to normal next week that a lot of people are going to be caught in a tough situation.”
Sending areas into lockdown without offering help is devastating and unfair, Mr Singer said.
“If the government has to lock down an area there needs to be support certainly to keep staff employed,” he said. “That is not going to be unfortunately a state burden, it has to come from the federal government.”
Another hospitality outfit hit hard by the lockdown was Rukus Café and Catering in Newport, with its co-owner Shaun Pereira revealing it had lost $40,000 worth of cancelled events.
RELATED: Premier ‘aghast’ at wedding lockdown breach
“Christmas and New Years and into January when school holidays is on is when we would take in about a year’s salary in that couple of weeks and we would be set for next year and have enough cash to get through winter and hire staff for busy season,” he said.
With the lockdown also being implemented with little warning on December 19, Mr Pereira said he also lost around $4000 worth of food that he had been preparing to use at a wedding the next day.
“Local businesses were just told to shut the doors and some businesses can’t survive a week without income,” he said.
“ I have credit cards maxed out and loans from family just to survive the year we had. Something as small as a two-week lockdown means we have missed our busy season and have no chance of catching up.”
Mr Pereira believes the government should compensate businesses for their losses as owners are just following orders.
“Small businesses aren’t big enough to suck up those losses with such short notice,” he said.
Its not just food and fitness that has suffered either.
Sophie Wilson, who owns Beaches Lash Co at Newport, said being booked out before Christmas was going to alleviate the pressure after a tough year until closure was forced upon them again.
“In beauty the main season is Christmas and then in January you get weddings,” she said.
“This week, we had a booking for wedding and it’s been cancelled, so it’s a domino effect. In total this year it would have been a full quarter with zero income for the business and you still have to pay commercial rent and it’s definitely not cheap in the northern beaches.”
With the lockdown end date continually moving, Ms Wilson, 36, said she had rescheduled clients three times but would stop as she couldn’t offer any guarantees.
She added that the impact of a lockdown also lingered long after it was lifted as people were scared to get out there.
“We got really busy from November,” she said.
“We reopened in June and then in November we felt safe and then an outbreak happened in December and it could happen again — you just don’t know until there is a vaccine.”
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan has started a petition calling on the federal and state government to help small businesses.