Kyabram businesses hit hard by COVID-19

By Jared Prestwidge

WE are living in extraordinary times.

The development and influence of the coronavirus has been swift and devastating.

And while there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Kyabram yet, that does not mean it has not hit us hard.

From Monday, the State Government implemented a statewide shutdown of non-essential services to curb the spread of the virus.

That includes pubs, clubs, licensed venues in hotels and pubs as well as gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas, entertainment venues, weddings and funerals.

At this stage, the shutdown will be in effect for three weeks, with potential for it to be extended.

For a regional town such as Kyabram, the lasting effects of the shutdown are as yet unknown, but what is known is that they will be felt for a long time to come.

Hurley’s Bar and Bistro owner Brenton Sheppard was forced to close his business on Monday and said he was now trying to work out alternative ways to keep it afloat.

But due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic and the constantly evolving news cycle and updates from the government, for many locally owned businesses that is easier said than done.

“We do have some options in terms of maybe doing some deliveries and takeaways, but I’ll need to understand how that is going to work until I commit to anything,” Brenton said.

“It is a massive flow-on effect for everyone concerned.

“In a perfect world I’d be able to keep up and provide some sort of service, but I don’t know if that’s the case as of yet.”

Brenton has owned Hurley’s for over five years and to say this current period was the most adversity he had faced yet would be an understatement.

He said his main concern at the moment was his staff — four permanent part-time and three full-time — who could be without their jobs if Hurley’s was unable to trade.

“My main priority at this stage is my staff and making sure that they are okay … but the stark reality is if we’re not trading for the next six months then their job security is in jeopardy.

“My main dry goods supplier will also be impacted hugely with all of the pubs, clubs and restaurants closing. If he can’t continue to trade through this period that eliminates one of my major suppliers.”

In the 30 years Lou Ciavarella has owned Ciavarella’s Betta Home Living, he has seen many small businesses come and go.

And while his stores are currently permitted to stay open under the shutdown, his and a number of businesses on Allan St have taken a hit nonetheless.

“We’re not too bad because if someone’s fridge breaks down, they’ll buy another fridge. But we haven’t got people who are doing renovations or updating their appliances like normal,” he said.

“We will stay open, but we will be doing deliveries as well. And I think a lot of stores will be doing the same.

“And if people aren’t sure on who is doing deliveries the best thing to do is call the store in question and they can offer a solution.”

Lou said he was preparing for the likely reality of the shutdown being extended, and to a worse extent, more businesses being forced to close.

And while the community should be doing their best to stay safe by practising social distancing and keeping indoors for as long as possible, everyone has a duty to support each other in such devastating and uncertain times.

“Some of the smaller stories have been struggling over the past 12 months … the main thing we’re worried about is if they do close down, they won’t open back up again,” Lou said.

“It’s going to be not a matter of if but when it’s going to hit us hard, and if we have a lockdown a lot of businesses cannot afford to be closed for three months.

“In this time of uncertainty, it’s important for people in all small towns to shop locally and support their local retailers who support the town and its organisations.”