Macarthur businesses fear coronavirus will force closures across the region

Restaurant owners Sarah Von Wartburg and Steve Wisbey are urging locals to shop local and still come visit the restuarants in the area. Picture: Simon Bennett
Restaurant owners Sarah Von Wartburg and Steve Wisbey are urging locals to shop local and still come visit the restuarants in the area. Picture: Simon Bennett

"We're all dead out here."

Small business owners across Macarthur are fighting to keep their doors open as the panic surrounding the corona virus continues to grow.

Bar Centrale's Sonya Moulang is fighting hard to keep her head above water, but needs the community's help to carry on.

"We're not even breaking even anymore," she said.

"I finish up the day and I'm $300 below breaking even.

"I'm cutting back on my own salary, on my hours, on my insurance cover to try and save money."

Ms Moulang said 2020 had been incredibly difficult on business owners, starting with the bushfire-related smoke at the beginning of the year, followed by the torrential rain and floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are parking spots everywhere at 8 in the morning, when I should usually be 30 coffees deep I'm lucky to have made three," the 2019 Campbelltown businessperson of the year said.

"It's just really, really hard to keep going right now.

"But if I'm going to go out, I'm going out fighting."

Ms Moulang said she had started a petition to all levels of government for help, which you can learn about on Bar Centrale's Facebook page.

Argyle Business Collective president Andrew Valciukas said the virus was yet another blow to the already struggling local economy.

He said if the panic and health warnings surrounding the virus were to last a few months longer many businesses would be forced to consider closing either temporarily or permanently.

"I don't think it's a matter of if but a matter of when," he said.

"Small business owners will be borrowing on their home loans or financing their businesses in any way that they can to try and survive this pandemic.

"It has been impossible to quantify exactly how this will affect business in the long-term but I know for a fact that Barenz, Upstairs at Fred's and the other hotels and cafes along Argyle Street, Camden are opening their doors each day wondering if they will have any customers to serve."

Bar Centrale owner Sonya Moulang was named the Campbelltown business person of the year in 2019. Now her business faces closure. Picture: Chris Lane

Bar Centrale owner Sonya Moulang was named the Campbelltown business person of the year in 2019. Now her business faces closure. Picture: Chris Lane

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the federal government has introduced a stimulus package to aid the struggling economy and placed a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

However Mr Valciukas said state and federal governments should be doing more to help small business owners across Australia.

"Small businesses are the backbone of the economy - in the last census I believe they made up 50-60 per cent of employment," he said.

"The government has to do something - whether that's in the form of freezing rent or interest free loans that can be paid back once this is over.

"I am not sure what the answer is but I hope they can offer business owners some form of assistance."

Silverdale's Tina Thorpe is a third generation business owner but recent event cancellations in light of the coronavirus have left her wondering how her family business will survive.

The Wollondilly local owns and operates Marellan Show Ribbons.

However since the government's cancellation of gatherings over 500 people and now the restriction of no more than 100 people in an indoor space, Ms Thorpe's business is in jeopardy.

"My mother and grandmother started this business 45 years ago working from their houses in Yagoona and Guildford - we moved out to our property in Silverdale so that we could run the business from home," she said.

"I don't want to be the one who has to close the business after all this time.

"I had to tell the five casual workers that I have, that there is no work for them anymore.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I am just not sure how they are going to go without work now because they all have families."

Ms Thorpe said more needed to be done to support small business owners.

Picton is still recovering from recent bushfire and flooding events as well as the impacts of the coronavirus. Picture: Chris Lane

Picton is still recovering from recent bushfire and flooding events as well as the impacts of the coronavirus. Picture: Chris Lane

"A financial injection of some kind would go a long way," she said.

"It's not necessarily about the day-to-day stuff but we still have bills, expenses and rent to pay.

"The government jumped in to support big businesses like the airlines who have have millions in their accounts but what about those of us who only have thousands, if that?"

Camden Liquor Accord president and restaurateur Steve Wisbey said Camden bars, restaurants and cafes were struggling to stay afloat.

"People need to realise that if they don't support us now, in two to three weeks we may not be here at all," he said.

"After speaking to a lot of the cafes and hotels on the main street we found that most people had lost 60-70 per cent of their business.

"If this keeps happening there is a strong possibility that we might not be here in a month."

Mr Wisbey encouraged locals to get out and support local restaurants and cafes.

"In a few months time when you aren't scared to go out again you may not have anywhere to go and that's not just Camden - it's Campbelltown, Narellan, Bargo - businesses are suffering everywhere," he said.

"We need to keep local businesses viable or they may not be here tomorrow."