COVID-19 rules hit business in Canberra hard, even without lockdown | The Canberra Times

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Businesses in Canberra are reeling in the face of what they say is now a lockdown, except in name. Last year’s formal lockdown hit them hard, but there was government support so they just about survived. But this year’s informal lockdown doesn’t offer the same safety net. No government shutdown order has been issued, but companies say the advice to people to stay at home has hit revenues hard. “Businesses can’t survive without having customers, so we might as well be closed,” said Tom Adam, owner of Canberra Martial Arts in Phillip. What he called the ACT government’s “let it rip” policy might mean no lockdowns, but he said the effect was the same. READ MORE: The Transit Bar at the London Circuit is set to reopen this week after being closed for two months, but has had to postpone its opening indefinitely. “At this stage we don’t know when we can open,” said owner Joel Tyrrell. “It has been two tumultuous years. We are almost at the breaking point. We are in an unspoken lockdown.” Potential customers were afraid to go outside, but the staff also tested positive. Plus, the ACT government regulations changed overnight last week, so venues like his suddenly had to include all seats. The Transit Bar had 11 performances scheduled for January. “A lot of people in Canberra craved live music and we hoped to provide it,” he said. Pre-COVID, the music venue had a capacity of 396. With COVID distancing rules, the venue was reduced to 180. He thinks the new non-standing capacity could be half that, about 90 — and that makes finances impossible, apart from change the nature of the music experience. “There is a danger of places going bankrupt,” he said. Canberra was proud, he said, to be an ambitious place with a vibrant music scene, but he thought the current dire situation threatened that. “There’s no support to keep these nighttime sites alive, so I don’t know what’s next,” he said. His story of woe and fear for the future was heard in the city and in different kinds of locations. “The problem we have is we might as well be in lockdown. They might as well close the hospitality industry,” said Mr Adam, Phillip Business Community president. “None of us have the capacity to tread water for six to eight weeks. All my money reserves are gone, but we get no support.’ His opinion was shared by Sean McConnell at the Rebel Rebel restaurant: “It is a very difficult time without government support,” he said. He had to close on December 30 because an employee tested positive. That meant he lost revenue from what would have been the biggest night of the year: New Year’s Eve. “We’ve been left in a pretty brutal situation,” he said. Part of the frustration of business owners is that they can’t plan. They don’t know how the pandemic is going to turn out and what government policies will be. “We don’t know what the endgame looks like. We can’t just keep stopping and starting,” McConnell said. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this COVID-19 outbreak in the ACT is free to everyone. However, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism. If you can, register here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, current news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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