As communities across the region, as well as the rest of the state, country and world, endeavour to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) with stages of lockdown progressing, there is nowhere that is ‘business as usual’.
Owners are doing their best to keep their businesses afloat, keep their customers happy and maintain employment, as well as safety, for their staff for as long as possible.
Dorothy Stark, at Aroma Coffee House and Eatery in Eastwood, said the café managers are keeping the café open as long as they can in whatever capacity they are able to keep their staff in work and their customers happy.
“We’ve obviously had to close our sit down and restaurant options, but we are still providing take away coffee and meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Dorothy said.
“We’ve uploaded menus to our Facebook page for take away meals for breakfast and lunch daily, and take away dinner options are available Friday and Saturday evenings.
“Chef-prepared meals are also available now (see the Facebook page for details). Cold and ready to heat up at home, the meals can be ordered by 5pm for collection the next day.
“Yes, we are experiencing a downturn, but we’re trying to adapt as quickly as we can as things change day-to-day at the moment.”
Sarah Bishop, at Nicholson Hotel, said things were “far from normal” at the Twin Rivers business, but they were coping well.
“We’re still operating seven days a week, but we have reduced our bottleshop hours to 10am to 8.30pm and our kitchen is only preparing takeaway meals, no restaurant dining, from 5.30 to 8.30pm,” Sarah said.
“We have a regular takeaway menu and have added a few of our special meals from the normal restaurant menu, like flatty tails and steaks, to the takeaway options.
“A lot of places aren’t but we’re still taking cash. In fact our NBN can struggle at the best of times so it’s a good idea to have cash anyway. We always sanitise and wash our hands regularly before and after serving and continue to do that and then some.”
Sarah said staff have been really good during this “really different situation”.
“We have a lot of younger staff and they’re dealing with it really well. We’ll still have jobs after even if we do have to go into full lock-down,” she said.
Barry Walker at the Exchange House in Lucknow said they’re “holding up okay”.
“We’re down but we’re still surviving,” he said. “We haven’t laid off any staff and we hope we don’t have to. We’ve got our floor marked out for social distancing and of course our sit down restaurant side is closed.
“We will be offering a service where people can call and place their orders and come and pick it up in the car park. We cater for everyone. We’ll bring it out and pop it on their car, or on the table outside,” Barry said.
“We have ample parking and a portable EFTPOS machine so customers can pay that way.
“What we want to do is keep going as long as possible to keep our staff employed. We’re prepared to stay open for longer hours if that’s what it takes.”
Coles supermarkets have implemented dedicated shopping time for selected community members for the first hour of trade each day.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday Coles Community Hours are dedicated to vulnerable and elderly customers who hold a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card, Seniors Card, Disability Card and Health Care Card. As of yesterday, Community Hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to emergency services and healthcare workers, who are essential to protecting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic including doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital and ambulance staff, police, firefighters and emergency service workers who hold an AHPRA card, have a workplace ID or are wearing their work uniform.
“My team at Bairnsdale has worked around the clock to help improve stock availability after increased demand in recent weeks,” Coles Bairnsdale store manager, Kym Albrecht, said.
“This is in part due to customers limiting over-purchasing and also support from suppliers, an increase in the number of team members in store, introducing purchase limits and limited hours of trade, and government intervention to relax truck curfews.
“I’d also like to thank our customers who have been an exceptional support to the Coles team in these challenging times.”
Woolworths also introduced similar opportunities with a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and people with a disability between 7 and 8am before the stores open to everyone.
Staff at Bairnsdale Woolworths are working hard to replenish depleted shelves for customers.
“We know it’s frustrating when our customers can’t get the products they need,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
“Our teams and suppliers are working round the clock to replenish stock levels in more than 1000 stores spread across Australia, with regular deliveries going to Woolworths Bairnsdale store.
“We ask our customers to be mindful of others in their local community, and buy only what they need.”
While the big supermarkets are implementing shopping hours dedicated to specific groups in the population, David Lucke’s Fresh Food Market in Bairnsdale has not found a need to do so as yet, and is maintaining normal trading hours as long as it can.
“We’re trying to keep everything going as normal as possible,” David Lucke said.
“We are receiving advice constantly on how we can reduce the spread with social distancing. We don’t have the space like the big supermarkets, but we will be having lines drawn to keep people apart and we have signs now hanging above the registers telling people to maintain distance from the operators.
“Masks have been ordered for our register staff. They’re the staff members who have the closest contact with the public and there’s really no way around that without completely rearranging the registers.
“It may come to a time when we need to limit the number of customers in the store, but we’re not there yet. We want to remain open as long as we can but we also have staff to consider.
“Our staff are also maintaining social distance during tea breaks and lunch. They wash their hands and sanitise all the time and are required to do so when they move from department to department as well.
“We already adhere to strict PrimeSafe hygiene requirements but we have increased our hygiene procedures significantly, which means it is more in the public eye now.
“Strict cleaning and sanitising procedures have us sanitising the trolleys, baskets, handles and hand rails three times a day.
“We have daily meetings with our staff about what is happening and how we need to operate to make it work. The last thing we want to do is close down the business. It’s in the staff’s best interest that we remain open. We have 50, 55 staff members and we need to look after them all as well as the public. We’re also considering splitting our man-agement team.
“Now we are getting enquiries about home delivery and the option to place orders for collection, which we will consider in the next week or two.”
SANITISATION THE KEY
At Bairnsdale Mazda, dealer principal, Ray Stephenson, said the way they deal with customers has changed significantly, and as with everywhere else, sanitisation is the key.
“We are sterilising vehicles when they come in, again every time someone gets in and out of one, every time they’re moved,” he said.
“Technicians are being careful, wearing gloves and wiping everything down on arrival. We’re covering it every step of the way.”
Ray said test drives are by request and follow amended guidelines.
“We’re leaving all the cars locked in the yard and customers will need to request access to inspect a car, again under strict sanitisation guidelines,” he said.
While he can’t explain it, Ray said they were busy on Monday and Tuesday, though by Wednesday there were only few people about.
“We had no excess of people here on Wednesday. The only visitors we had were service and repair visits with vehicles in for prioritised services,” he said.
“We’re trying to operate as much as we can for those we employ, using all the safety guidelines. Safety of our staff is paramount. We really need to look after each other.
“After the fires we had deals happening to help those impacted. Maybe that prepared us a bit, but this is such an unknown thing. The fires we kind of had some idea, but this, well who knows?”
PLEASE, STAY AWAY!
Meanwhile, Dargo is struggling to deal with an influx of visitors that under normal situations they would welcome with open arms, but the community implores them to stay away.
Helen Hall, at the Dargo Hotel, and Kerry Leemon, at the Dargo General Store, are disgusted with the attitude of the tourists who are trekking to the town.
“With all the information out there about how serious this thing is we are still getting tourists up here with such a blasé attitude,” Helen said.
Dargo has elderly residents, who are in the high-risk category for COVID-19, including Helen’s parents who are in their 80s.
“We have a lot of older residents who we want to protect,” she said.
“There’s one elderly lady who relies on the general store. She toddles down here and would have zero idea what’s going on with this thing. It’s people like her we need to protect.
“We need to protect our little community here and we need everyone at this point to stay away. We’re members of the Dargo Business and Tourism Association and last week we were asking people to come see us after the fires. Now we’re asking the opposite.”
The general store has reduced its hours with a focus on servicing locals only. It is open 8am to 5pm, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9am to 1pm Tuesdays and Thurs-days, and closed weekends.
At the hotel they’re offering a takeaway service from 5.30 to 8pm for food and drink. It is available for local residents and local working contractors only. The campground at the rear of the hotel has also been locked up until further notice.
“We close the general store on weekends for now to discourage the tourists,” Kerry said.
“We’ve had some disgruntled visitors, but we’re doing this for our community to keep them safe,” Helen said.
“We, everyone, can’t afford to be in this situation for too long. We won’t be able to afford to pay our staff and we’ll need staff who know what they’re doing when we get back on deck and try to get back to normal.”
IMAGE: What better way to spend time away from school than spreading a bit a love and joy in these difficult times? Children, and adults, have been having fun getting outdoors, but staying at home, and getting creative by decorating their driveways and footpaths with colour. Lachlan, Hunter and Violet Cloak got their chalk out this week to spread colour across the footpath near their house with the message ‘spread love and kindness’. Their mum, Tess, said the kids “just wanted to get some fresh air, be creative and create something to make people smile”. “They wanted to decorate the footpath to bring a smile to those walking around Picnic Point,” Tess said.