Tough times return

Businesses across the Yarra Ranges were forced to put up 'closed' signs on Friday.

Businesses across the Yarra Ranges have suffered a further blow as Victoria endures yet another round of stage four restrictions as part of a five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown.

As the hospitality and restaurant industry were forced to operate as take-away only again, and with only “essential” stores open to the public, businesses had to scramble to adapt to the new restrictions in time for the weekend and what was expected to be a busy Valentine’s Day on 14 February.

Seville’s Branded Burgers and Bar co-owner Gina Braidner described the Friday afternoon as “manic”.

“I spent three hours just trying to get my head around what was happening and how to deal with it,” she said.

“I was getting staff organised, breaking shifts, cutting hours down and getting delivery drivers again.”

Ms Braidner said her staff did their best to change and accommodate weekend bookings and that they are hopeful of hosting a Valentine’s Day 2.0 for those couples who missed out celebrating.

“We were contacting all bookings and moving them to the Friday night and then were forced to cancel others, it’s been absolute chaos.

“We have a cool room full of stock we had ordered for the weekend and we’re trying to keep trading. We’ll have some losses but we’re hoping to minimise those losses by doing takeaway.”

Ms Braidner said making the switch to a takeaway and delivery model wasn’t hard as it was how Branded operated in the previous lockdowns.

“We already had it all going before, so we knew what we were doing. It was just a matter of turning it all back on again.”

Owner of Forget-Me-Not Floret in Mount Evelyn, Liz Lilburn said Valentines Day had a “completely different feel this year” and was grateful for the outpour of support from the community.

“The lockdown certainly took us by surprise because we took the whole month leading up to this big day and preparing for it. We were a bit heartbroken but we had amazing support at the shop,” Ms Lilburn said.

Ms Lilburn said she “jumped on social media after the announcement and started advertising for people to call the shop and place orders”.

“Everyone shared it and commented and we had a rush of people come in on Friday afternoon all devastated for us, sharing it on the noticeboards and telling their friends. If it wasn’t for the community doing that we wouldn’t of got through,” she said.

Ms Lilburn said she was “gobsmacked” by the amount of people that kept coming and buying things for themselves to support the business.

“Some said they don’t normally do flowers but wanted to support us. We did have a bit of stock left over that would normally sell out by lunch time. Valentines Day relies heavily on walk-through traffic so it was ridiculously different having the doors closed and delivering to the door,” she said.

“We were lucky because we did not have online floristry set up until that week, so if we didn’t have that I don’t know how we would have sold a lot of flowers,” she said.

Healesville Community Bank were forced to put their 10 year anniversary celebrations on hold with an event planned for Thursday 18 February, outside of the initial five day lockdown announcement.

It wasn’t the only anniversary event cancelled as owner of Emerald’s Vibe Health and Fitness, Tiffany Smith, said it was the gym’s 14th birthday on Friday, with the lockdown announcement cutting celebrations short.

“We were going to have a bit of a celebration and sale, but that didn’t happen. We couldn’t really have much of a celebration,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith said the gym was locked down for around eight months last year, describing the time as “really tough, especially mentally”.

“So many people that come to the gym are my friends and have become my family, I had people crying at the door at midday when we had to close last time, which was really hard to see so I am really hoping this time it is only for the five days,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith said she understands the closure of gyms given that people are perspiring, but believes the restrictions would be better off being locally assessed.

“We are in Emerald, we are very far away so it’s not really fair. Not allowing people to do outdoor exercise in groups is a bit unfair because you can easily be spaced apart,” she said.

“For the staff it’s hard, because people in the fitness industry are people orientated and live to help and be around people and even though we are still paying JobKeeper it’s more the mental health for both the staff and the members,” she said.

Director at Ranges First National Real Estate, Mick Dolphin said the lockdown announcement made things “very busy” on Friday afternoon, with all open inspections scheduled for Saturday morning needing to be cancelled.

“Even though we were prepared from last time it was just a lot of coordination. I had staff ringing and wanting to know what they can and can’t do, buyers and owners ringing, it was just a big change. Because we had so many rules and regulations last time it was pretty hard to work out what this one was going to entail,” Mr Dolphin said.

“Things have been really busy for us and honestly, I’ve looked at it as a slight positive to catch up on a few things, as long as it’s only five days,” he said.