By TOM GANNON
SHORT notice and a seventh lockdown for regional Victoria has left many already vulnerable Latrobe Valley businesses gasping for air.
Although community sport was cancelled on Friday night (before the official lockdown announcement), many local hospitality businesses had already been well underway preparing food for the busy weekend of sport across Gippsland.
Morwell’s Out of Dough bakery was one such business who had just about finished making the weekend orders for several Latrobe Valley football canteens when word of an imminent statewide lockdown hit the airwaves.
Owner Mark Effenberg told The Express the bakery had already made between 3000 and 4000 bread rolls and an abundance of pies, pasties and sausage rolls made by the time the state government announced community sport was cancelled.
“Our clubs have to have their orders in by Thursday at the latest so everything is made on Thursday in the way of the pies, pasties and sausage rolls, we start work at six o’clock on a Friday night,” he said.
“(It was) gut wrenching, just like normal it was left until the last moment and we had no time really to do anything.”
Mr Effenberg summed up how himself and likely most of the state are feeling right now.
“It’s hard,” he said.
“There’s nothing really to look forward to at the moment.”
Ineligible for government support, Mr Effenberg is often left with the unfortunate decision of what to do with the freshly made goods.
“Every time they cancel on us unfortunately we either waste the stock, throw it away or do what we did on Saturday and discount it heavily,” he said.
Mr Effenberg said the business was inundated with support from the community after a call to arms was made on the business’ Facebook page.
“They all (community football games) got cancelled at 8:45 at night and on Friday night we posted on Facebook that we have an abundance of rolls and we had great support from the community, we managed to get rid of them all,” he said.
“We would’ve covered what it costs us to make them so we really didn’t make any profit on it, it was more the costs associated with it.”
Although grateful for the community support, Mr Effenberg said the frequency and short notice of lockdowns is diminishing the chances of the business surviving COVID-19 and will likely mean staff costs will need to be reconsidered.
“It hurts us a lot because it’s happened four or five times now,” he said.
“It’s starting to get desperate for businesses around the area, including us, we are going to have to seriously look at staffing, even if it’s business partners stepping back and letting the girls and the bakers at least have their jobs for the moment.
“It’s pretty hard, most of the staff that work for me have been here for 15 to 20 years so they are almost like family.”
Despite the worrying position the business has been placed in, Mr Effenberg is concerned with the future of the region’s football clubs who have been decimated by frequent lockdowns over the past two seasons.
“It’s not just us, it’s the clubs too, we’ve got clubs that haven’t had a canteen yet, you can’t charge them for stuff they’ve ordered when games get cancelled so we take it on ourselves if we get locked down,” he said.
“We wear it only because if these clubs don’t survive we don’t have a business either and it’s not good for the kids, they need to get out and play sport and one more club down means less places to play and kids lose interest, it is tough.”