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92.9fm Regional News

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Shutting down: Tamworth businesses deal with fallout of new rules

Leonie Bell, co-owner of Inspirations Cafe, Gift and Patchwork Gallery.

It's a tough Monday for Tamworth businesses who under new draconian rules have to shut down as the government tries to stem the increase of Covid-19 cases.

Following the decisions made by National Cabinet, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the shutdown to protect citizens.

“I understand many in the community are worried, and these changes will affect everyday lives, and may be upsetting,” she said.

“But these decisions will make us all safer, they are taken with the health of all citizens in mind, and they must be taken now.

“If you have the capacity to work from home, you should do so.”

In line with health advice, from midday today, the following non-essential activities and businesses will be temporarily shut down:

  • Pubs, registered clubs

  • Gyms, indoor sporting venues

  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs

  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery

  • Religious gatherings, places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rule, which can proceed).

Tamworth's only cinema will be shut down as one of the venues listed by the government on Sunday night.

Grant Lee, Forum 6 manager, said they were predicting this move considering what measures other countries have been implementing.

"We actually were thinking it would have happened later in the week, but we have been preparing," he said.

"It is heartbreaking especially with the wonderful staff that I have, I feel for them and I feel for my customers.

"So many have left beautiful messages for us."

Mr Lee said they now face the mammoth task of shutting down the business which includes packing up stock and sending it back, as there is no indication of when they will be able to open again.

"We are having a big meeting this morning to discuss what is going to happen," he said.

"I don't know what is happening to me either, but I am more worried about my staff than me - I just want them to be OK.

"I want to say, we have to support the businesses that are still open, so go get a takeaway meal or just something to keep people employed as much as we can."

Mr Lee said emphatically they will be back as soon as they are able.

Rod Laing.

Rod Laing, CEO of the Wests Entertainment Group, said although he knew the day was coming, it was still hard to hear the news and accept they would need to close down.

"I wasn't expecting that to be late last night," he said.

"We can't open the business we have to shut it all down and that will take a day or two.

"We have perishable items in there and assisting the staff, but there's 165 staff and some of those are turning up completely shattered and crying."

Mr Laing said current information states the closure will be for a month.

"A forced shutdown is a little bit different to closing your doors because of poor business," he said.

"There is no revenue coming in, staff don't get paid but full-time and permanent staff will have access to any leave they might have.

"We have been advising them to enrol straight away for Newstart. We don't want to terminate any staff and we don't want staff to resign because we will need them when we come back - we consider ourselves one big family."

Mr Laing said reopening, whenever that happens, will be a challenge in itself as they will need to build up business again.

He added that although it was going to be tough, he thought it was a sensible decision.

"The only way to stop this is for us to support it," Mr Laing concluded.

While it's tough for some business it is not all doom and gloom as Zoom Delivery has seen a steady increase over the past two weeks as more and more people turn to takeaway options said founder Ryan Blair.

But in the last 48 hours, there has been a huge spike of interest from local businesses in joining the platform as they adapt to the new rules laid down.

"We want to be in a position to help them, and we will be doing everything we can," Mr Blair said.

"We are looking at putting more drivers on, but we have to look at how we can train them in a safe manner as public safety is key

"We have shifted to no contact delivery, and no contact pickup from restaurants," he said.

"So we have online ordering online with a credit card, we offer driver tracking and then we leave it at the door.

"The driver will knock on the door, leave the food, walk back four metres and make sure the people pick up their food and wish them a happy night."

Mr Blair said Zoom Delivery is doing everything it can to support Tamworth businesses and the community during this time but urged people to be patient.

"Be safe everyone," he said.

Jody Stevens, the owner of Escape Rooms Tamworth, made the decision to close down temporarily before the federal government even made its announcement.

"There was a couple of factors," she said.

"Firstly, it was getting too close for comfort as we are essentially putting people in a close room where they are touching things simultaneously and even though we took all the precautions, we wanted to be careful.

"Secondly, people were still coming in even though they were sick which was frustrating."

Tamworth Escape Rooms has only been open for a month, making it a tough decision.

But, Ms Stevens said she knew it was the right one.

"We will be back and we will take the downtime to plan the future events," she said.

"There's a distinct lack of profit because of this but the people who have cancelled will come back, it is essentially postponing our income.

"It's important to stay safe and I would encourage people to adhere to the rules and support businesses in a new way by getting takeaway."

The owners of 360 Fitness confirmed on social media they would be shutting down the gym in line with the new rules.

"This includes closing the aquatic centre as well as stopping 24-hour access," they said.

"We know that this is a stressful and scary time for you, as it is for our staff and for us.

We’ll be here once this crisis has passed, smiling and ready to lift, train, swim, run, cycle, BodyPump, Zumba, Yoga, care for the kids and have a coffee.

"In the meantime, Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar will continue to offer takeaway coffee and food in Tamworth Regional Playground."

It's not just business owners who are feeling the backlash from the laws, but casual staff who have no leave to fall back on.

One Tamworth retail worker in her 20s, who wished to remain anonymous, has been stood down by her employer.

"I have been working there for less two months, and I needed the money for daily life," she said.

"I found out on the weekend that I would not have any shifts for the foreseeable future.

"I was sad to hear it, but I understand even though I am not sure what I will do now as I don't know if I am eligible for Newstart."

It's not all bad however as some businesses work to adapt their offerings.

Leonie Bell, co-owner of Inspirations Cafe, Gift and Patchwork Gallery, decided to start offering the opportunity for people to order the delivery service of their home-cooked meals.

"We have a loyal customer base and we wanted to be able to offer them the sorts of food we normally have," she said.

"We want to check on them at the same time because a lot of them are older members of the community and we need to make sure they are OK.

"It's been a difficult time because we do not know what is even going to happen tomorrow."

Ms Bell said in the 30 years she has run a business in Tamworth, she has never seen anything like this.

"I would encourage everyone to support businesses any way they can, whatever it takes," she said.



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