‘Mixed feelings’ as businesses fight through COVID uncertainty

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Business owners and operators throughout Stawell have faced 18 months worth of challenging circumstances as they try to earn a living in the toughest of circumstances. Magdala Motor Lodge and Lakeside Restaurant operator-manager Robert DiPietro said his accommodation business has felt the effects of COVID lockdowns. “There was very little change compared when we were in lockdown. Regional people don’t feel like moving like they were in the past,” he said. “The people we have had coming through are people not travelling, but those moving around for work or other essential reasons. “People are less likely to travel at the moment and even if that travel is essential. “Stawell is really reliant on people coming to the area for work, but if those people can work from somewhere else then they will be here less and less.” On Thursday September 9, at 11:59pm, lockdown restrictions lifted across regional Victoria, but times are still tough for many businesses in the region. Mr DiPietro said the accommodation site has their kitchen open for people booked into a room, but won’t open it any further due to the effect of the restrictions still in place. He said business was busy earlier in the year, but the winter lockdowns have stifled any momentum. “We are really reliant on Melbourne trade for the restaurant,” he said. READ MORE: “We have got some support because we are a licensed venue, but because we have been listed as out of lockdown we are not sure if we are still going to get that. “From December through until May it was flat out and it was huge. “But it is virtually impossible, I mean with rent alone you are backwards before you even start.” Despite the tough circumstances Mr DiPietro was making the most of the situation. “A typical night for us might 15-20 rooms booked out, but now we might have 1-3 per night,” he said. “We are fortunate that we have been able to be open, a lot of businesses haven’t been in that position. Something is better than nothing. “We are doing what we can to be in a better position which is what we are aiming for. We have used this time for general maintenance, created a new range of rooms, painted rooms, installed new televisions and painted our restaurant for the first time in 30 years.” In the retail sector Clarks owner Anna Clark said she has sensed a strange feeling upon reopening their doors. “It is a difficult one, I think the whole COVID situation has made everything sporadic,” she said. OTHER NEWS: “Some days will be busy others will be a lot quieter. “From our sales point of view it has been fine for us and from the point of view of footfall it has been less and I am getting the impression that people are become more aware of the need to shop locally. “It hasn’t been a huge difference but people certainly aren’t flocking to the shops.” After the state government’s announcement Clark’s returned to normal operating hours, with Mrs Clark noting the feeling within the community. “This week has been pretty busy to be honest,” she said. “It is strange, it is very strange. “There is just a strange kind of atmosphere, we have mixed feelings really. “I think people are wary of jumping back into lockdown and so that feeling is there. “I always like to look at the positives and from our point of view we feel like we are going steadily and we certainly feel very lucky to be open. “We have had the support of the local community and we are really thankful for that.” The tourism sector is another industry which has also been affected by COVID restrictions in place across the country. Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said he would like to see support measures in place for businesses as the industry finds its feet once again. “Tourism is a vital part of the Grampians economy – and it has been hit hard by COVID restrictions on travel and hospitality,” he said. “When you get your COVID-19 vaccination, you’re not just protecting yourself and the community, you’re also supporting the 4,200 Grampians residents and over 800 local businesses who are reliant on the visitor expenditure in the Grampians region. “Grampians Tourism is also advocating for the Four-Point Plan from the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) designed to support the tourism industry through lockdown and restrictions.” The Four-Point Plan involves: If you can see this message, you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Stawell Times-News, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and for allowing us to continue telling Stawell’s story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great town.

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Business owners and operators throughout Stawell have faced 18 months worth of challenging circumstances as they try to earn a living in the toughest of circumstances.

Magdala Motor Lodge and Lakeside Restaurant operator-manager Robert DiPietro said his accommodation business has felt the effects of COVID lockdowns.

“There was very little change compared when we were in lockdown. Regional people don’t feel like moving like they were in the past,” he said.

“The people we have had coming through are people not travelling, but those moving around for work or other essential reasons.

“People are less likely to travel at the moment and even if that travel is essential.

“Stawell is really reliant on people coming to the area for work, but if those people can work from somewhere else then they will be here less and less.”

On Thursday September 9, at 11:59pm, lockdown restrictions lifted across regional Victoria, but times are still tough for many businesses in the region.

Mr DiPietro said the accommodation site has their kitchen open for people booked into a room, but won’t open it any further due to the effect of the restrictions still in place.

He said business was busy earlier in the year, but the winter lockdowns have stifled any momentum.

“We are really reliant on Melbourne trade for the restaurant,” he said.

“We have got some support because we are a licensed venue, but because we have been listed as out of lockdown we are not sure if we are still going to get that.

“From December through until May it was flat out and it was huge.

“But it is virtually impossible, I mean with rent alone you are backwards before you even start.”

Despite the tough circumstances Mr DiPietro was making the most of the situation.

“A typical night for us might 15-20 rooms booked out, but now we might have 1-3 per night,” he said.

“We are fortunate that we have been able to be open, a lot of businesses haven’t been in that position. Something is better than nothing.

“We are doing what we can to be in a better position which is what we are aiming for.

We have used this time for general maintenance, created a new range of rooms, painted rooms, installed new televisions and painted our restaurant for the first time in 30 years.”

In the retail sector Clarks owner Anna Clark said she has sensed a strange feeling upon reopening their doors.

“It is a difficult one, I think the whole COVID situation has made everything sporadic,” she said.

“Some days will be busy others will be a lot quieter.

“From our sales point of view it has been fine for us and from the point of view of footfall it has been less and I am getting the impression that people are become more aware of the need to shop locally.

“It hasn’t been a huge difference but people certainly aren’t flocking to the shops.”

After the state government’s announcement Clark’s returned to normal operating hours, with Mrs Clark noting the feeling within the community.

“This week has been pretty busy to be honest,” she said.

“It is strange, it is very strange.

“There is just a strange kind of atmosphere, we have mixed feelings really.

“I think people are wary of jumping back into lockdown and so that feeling is there.

“I always like to look at the positives and from our point of view we feel like we are going steadily and we certainly feel very lucky to be open.

“We have had the support of the local community and we are really thankful for that.”

The tourism sector is another industry which has also been affected by COVID restrictions in place across the country.

Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said he would like to see support measures in place for businesses as the industry finds its feet once again.

“Tourism is a vital part of the Grampians economy – and it has been hit hard by COVID restrictions on travel and hospitality,” he said.

“When you get your COVID-19 vaccination, you’re not just protecting yourself and the community, you’re also supporting the 4,200 Grampians residents and over 800 local businesses who are reliant on the visitor expenditure in the Grampians region.

“Grampians Tourism is also advocating for the Four-Point Plan from the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) designed to support the tourism industry through lockdown and restrictions.”

The Four-Point Plan involves:

  • Deliver a wage subsidy scheme that supports businesses in navigating the next several months until targeted vaccination thresholds are achieved in mid-November 2021.

  • Beyond the 10-week period to mid-November 2021, once we reach 70-80 per cent vaccination targets, the above subsidy scheme needs to remain in place through the current Financial Year to support visitor economy businesses that continue to record at least a 50 per cent reduction in turnover.

  • Waiver of State Government taxes and fees for eligible businesses.

  • Building confidence and re-establishing the reputation of Melbourne and Victoria – this includes delivering a clear roadmap for how we will reactivate as staged thresholds are met in the coming months and what privileges might be open to fully vaccinated residents.

If you can see this message, you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Stawell Times-News, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and for allowing us to continue telling Stawell’s story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great town.

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