Back to business across Valley

Happy to be back: Crossley Cafe owner Kelly Alcock is happy to once again be behind the coffee machine. photograph zac standish

Zac Standish

Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted the Latrobe Valley earlier this week as ‘lockdown 6.0’ came to a sudden end for regional Victoria and businesses were once again given the green light to open their doors on Tuesday morning.

In what is becoming a common occurrence for operators in the hospitality, retail and entertainment sectors, the news from Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday served as a major boost for business in the region as they once again attempt to rebound from another weekend of lost trade.

For owner of popular Morwell eatery Crossley Café Kelly Alcock, the recent announcement served as a major relief.

“It is super exciting for us and been wonderful to serve the people of Morwell in the sunshine, but again you do stress about when the next one is going to be,” Ms Alcock said.

“(In lockdown) nobody is out and about so I have basically just been forced to close because with the lack of foot traffic it is just not worth being open – I remember sitting here for one day and had three customers so I am very thankful and excited to see regional Victoria back up and running again.”

Taking over the café in March after running the now closed Limnos Karvery Kafé in Traralgon for three years, Ms Alcock outlined the financial toll these lockdowns have had on the business.

“Before moving here we did have the café in Traralgon and unfortunately COVID got us and we closed last October, so had we known these lockdowns would be a continuous thing we would not have even looked at going into another café,” she said.

“After everything that happened last year I honestly thought the worst of it was over but unfortunately that just has not been the case – with nobody around the financial impact has just been huge on us.”

In the retail sector, Traralgon Centre Plaza’s QBD Books store manager Jodi Winter shared the sense of excitement and relief associated with once again re-opening.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be back open, a nice short and sharp one this time around with regional Victoria back up and running again, but now we just have to hope that the Melbournites do the right thing,” Ms Winter said.

A business supported heavily by casual workers, Ms Winter said the hardest part of these lockdowns is having to cancel her employee’s shifts.

“The major impact on us is that all of my casuals will lose their shifts, and obviously the loss of sales as well,” she said.

“Closing over the weekend is usually the busiest trade, where we like to have a lot of our staff on, being a store in a regional shopping centre our customers come in at the time most convenient to them – so losing that little period was frustrating.”

Opening the doors on Tuesday morning, she said the public response was overwhelming as people flocked to the Plaza in large numbers.

“It has been absolute bedlam (today), lunchtime was absolutely crazy, there were people everywhere – we also had our stock come in as well so we were playing catch up which is something we have gotten quite used to in these lockdowns,” she said.

“The vibe of the customers was a bit hit or miss with some very happy to be out and getting things back to normal, while we have also had the anxious ones who are worried that it will happen again.”

With life back to a relative normal for the time being, she said there is certainly a sense of anxiety that lockdown could be back.

“We are all anxious and really are just waiting for it – you don’t know when it is going to hit and the Delta Variant has shown us that it is not safe and we’ll need to do the right thing for it to go away,” she said.

As for Ms Alcock, she said lockdowns are something that business owners just cannot control.

“It is what it is, you cannot change it – there is no reason in carrying on so my thing it is what is and I can’t do anything about it, all I can do is make the most of it when we are open.”