“This time we have nothing left to give, mentally and financially,” read the heartbreaking message posted on Facebook by the owners of the Victoria Hotel.
Their final trading day will by Sunday, August 8 after a fifth Victorian lockdown pushed them to close permanently.
The Victoria Hotel has been an iconic feature of Yarraville since the 1800s. As one of the oldest businesses in the area, it has endured war and economic strife, but the uncertainty of Covid and a spate of lockdowns has closed the business permanently.
They are another in a long line of historic establishments destroyed by Victoria’s harsh lockdowns.
“We tried… We honestly tried,” said the team yesterday. “For those who know us we are local, we are parents, employers, supporters of local charities and optimists. Unfortunately businesses are not like a light switch, turning off and then on again.”
National Cabinet promised in early July that as part of the new four-phase plan to lead Australia out of Covid, lockdowns would be a last resort due to the economic hardship experienced by businesses. Despite this, NSW and Victoria have once again been quick to lockdown while the rest of the world’s major cities live with hundreds of thousands of active Covid cases.
“After last year businesses needed confidence and certainty to rebuild. We almost closed last year and decided to give it one last go, bigger and better than ever. We renovated, we offered more jobs to people in the community and as always have been determined and passionate about creating the friendliest family pub in Yarraville. We offered our spaces to community groups, charitable organisations and held our children’s events again to help families reconnect and supported other small businesses to get back on their feet.”
Businesses across Australia were encouraged to use the lockdown as an investment period, but while one temporary lockdown was survivable, five has been too much for many who are deemed, ‘non-essential’ by the state.
Damaging Covid restrictions are not limited to full lockdowns. Pre-lockdown restrictions such as the cutting the number of guests allowed at weddings and general functions has played havoc on the hospitality industry, who have seen their crucial large bookings cancelled.
“Today entering our 5th lockdown it feels surreal and we feel numb. We now have a checklist: break the news to staff, finalise the cancellations from private events and refund monies paid, cancel dining bookings, organise how to deal with food spoilage and the list goes on. With little to no notice from the government it means losses of thousands of dollars on days that would be our highest trading days.”
This comes after the government lockdowns covered vital trading days such as Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and others. Retail and hospitality rely on a few key dates every year to cover their operating costs. Some businesses earn half their total annual revenue on Boxing Day alone.
“Yesterday at 5pm when the lockdown was announced I quickly made the decision to not run our Thursday $18 steak night and explained we had a full fridge and menu to get through. Several customers were horrified by this as it wasn’t received well, some even left and decided not to dine in at all. I think it’s timely for a reminder to be kind, always. In every situation, with everyone you are dealing with. For you don’t know what challenges people are facing.
“Government support has meant we’ve been able to retain some of our staff members whom have stood by our side, however with no relief on electricity, gas, water, insurances, licensing and etc when we haven’t been able to trade we are still so behind.”
While the federal and state governments offer some support, it is nothing compared to the actual cost of operations. After nearly two years, most businesses and their owners have had their savings emptied and can no longer carry the cost of lost perishable stock and cancelled appointments.
“The level of anxiety that this has caused for us as business owners and our staff - just needlessly, we now just feel let down. We have come back after each lockdown with the ever hopeful optimism that as Melburnians we stand together and we will get through this, however this time we have nothing left to give, mentally and financially. With a heavy heart we will permanently close The Victoria Hotel Yarraville.”
The business's full farewell message can be found on their Facebook page, along with an outpouring of support for the owners and staff.