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‘Matter of survival’: Small businesses brace for impact after renewed COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne

Mandeep Brar operates six beauty salons across Melbourne. Source: Supplied

The reimposition of stage 3 restrictions due to COVID-19 has severely impacted Melbourne’s small businesses that were hoping for a turnaround after the first lockdown.

Many small and medium-sized businesses are bracing to face the harsh impact of another six weeks of stay-at-home orders for Melbourne’s 5 million residents.

Given the uncertainty looming over the extended period of the current restrictions, some businesses have requested more support from the federal and state governments.


Highlights:

  • Stage 3 restrictions are expected to affect about 5 million people in Melbourne
  • Many businesses are bracing for the harsh impact of the lockdown
  • They have demanded more support from the federal and state governments

For a business operating in North Melbourne, which was also part of the hotspot postcodes, the return of the lockdown conditions has been “devastating”. 

Mandeep Singh has thanked the government for a $10,000 grant and a GST incentive.
Mandeep Singh has thanked the government for a $10,000 grant and a GST incentive.
Supplied

Mandeep Singh, who has been running a car workshop for the last three years, said he is now bracing for yet another impact of COVID-19.

“In mid-June, the business was picking up nicely and we thought we are moving in the right direction. But sadly, now we are not.”

“The authorities have no choice other than the lockdown, but I am afraid that the new set of restrictions will completely ruin our business,” he told SBS Punjabi.

Mr Singh, who thanked the government for a $10,000 grant and a GST incentive, is of the opinion that more financial aid and stimulus packages are needed to stabilize small businesses, which are the backbone of the economy. 

Mandeep Brar’s two stores located in the hotspot postcodes were closed much earlier.
Mandeep Brar’s two stores located in the hotspot postcodes were closed much earlier.
Supplied

Mandeep Brar who runs six different stores of ‘Just Threading’ across Melbourne, is concerned over the second wave of the virus spreading across Victoria.

“The numbers are growing rapidly, which is the last thing you want to see as a small business owner. But I really hope things would get better,” he said.

Like many other small business owners, Mr Brar also heaved a ‘sigh of relief’ when the restrictions were removed earlier in the month.

But after the second phase of lockdown, his hopes to "sustain" were "shattered" again.

Two of his stores located at Airport West and Highpoint were in the hotspot postcodes and had to be shutdown much earlier.

  

Mr Brar said his business has incurred a loss of over $500,000 in the last three months alone.

“Nobody knows how far we need to go with these business losses. Once it is over, we’ll think about financial security and business viability. Right now it is just a matter of survival,” he added.

Mr Brar also wants to see some changes in government policies.

“We need more support from the government. I run seven businesses under one parental company. But the $10,000 grant provided by the government was for just one venture, which I feel is not good enough.”

Vineet Bansal runs an Indian restaurant at Craigieburn in Melbourne’s north.
Vineet Bansal runs an Indian restaurant at Craigieburn in Melbourne’s north.
Supplied

Vineet Bansal who runs an Indian restaurant in Craigieburn in Melbourne’s north, said his business has been “doing ok” despite the obvious challenges.

“We had to face a significant decline in daily sales but it’s not that bad compared to others. So far, we’re able to survive with the support of our local customers,” he said. 

Mr Bansal said they had to embrace many changes in their workflow.

“We miss our customers as there is no dine-in facility anymore. But we don’t see any sustainability issues, given that we changed our focus to takeaway business which has picked up nicely of late.”

Mr Bansal considers himself lucky to be living in Australia.

“We understand it’s a global crisis where almost everyone is affected. So, no complaints from our side. In fact, our thanks to the federal and state governments who are doing what they can.

“Government’s Job Keeper support and financial aid of $10,000 has been a lifeline for many businesses like ours and we hope it gets extended from its current position,” he added.

Click on the player above to listen to the full interviews. 

Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for food and essential supplies, work, study, exercise or care responsibilities. People are also advised to wear masks in public.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus 

Listen to SBS Punjabi Monday to Friday at 9 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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