Several Orbost and district businesses have again had to adapt to stage three COVID-19 restrictions.
With the Premier’s announcement of stage three restrictions on regional areas as of Wednesday, August 5 at 11.59pm, businesses have changed their operations and some have closed.
Another concerning aspect for many was that meat processors and abattoirs were having to reduce their total amount of output and the growing concern from this was that butcher shops and supermarkets would see another surge of panic buying.
However, butcher manager of Orbost FoodWorks, Jayden Price, last week said meat stocks are in good order.
“We’re not going to run out of meat, we’re lucky here in Orbost that we have an abattoir to supply us,” he said.
“However, I’d say that it (meat) is almost selling at the same rate as we’d expect to see during our summer time.”
As one of the largest employers in town, the supermarket has been fortunate that it has been business as usual in some regards and they have not had to lay off any staff, which Jayden was pleased about.
“We’re seeing more and more people shopping locally than ever before including from out as far as Mallacoota. Even our delivery service is busier than usual,” he said.
“On average, we’d make around four deliveries a day where as at the moment we are doing around 20 a day. We’ll deliver anywhere – around Orbost, Jarrahmond, Bete Bolong, Newmerella and even to Cann River on a Thursday which has been really popular.”
While major supermarket chains have recently reintroduced their buying limitations for shoppers, Orbost FoodWorks hasn’t had to.
“We’ve got everything we need even though MetCash, who supply our frozen and dairy to us, are roughly 48 hours behind schedule. The rest is as normal,” Jayden said.
Over the road, Orbost Club Hotel owner, Tim Behan, has spent much of the global pandemic re-evaluating his business - renovating it during the first lockdown and now in the second phase getting a new system in place which allows his kitchen to still operate.
While the main bar is closed and the beers are not flowing, Tim spent time in April making enquiries into a new Point of Sale (POS) system that he was contemplating installing in the pub, however couldn’t justify it at the time due to the amount of work that was required to set it up.
“The clincher for us was that I figured that in a post COVID world, online ordering would be a bigger thing so when I saw that the H&L system not only would give us the POS system but it had the capability to activate the online ordering, I was sold,” Tim said.
“It’s been a big job to install and taken several months but it gives us the functionality to effectively operate in three ways when we reopen. Whether that is through takeaway, delivery or ordering at your table.”
Tim is optimistic this system could work and has committed to trialling it for the next two weeks, saying if it doesn’t work then “we’ll shut her down again”.
“It is very, very frustrating but it is what it is and we could all be in stage four and that would be awful,” he said.
“Even once we get to the other side of this six weeks, I just can’t see us all springing back to normal right away. It’ll be a slow reopen but we’ll get there.”
During the first lockdown, Orbost Post Office was perhaps the busiest it ever has been with people queuing down the footpath to go inside and collect their online order.
“Parcels haven’t picked up yet but we think that they will during this lockdown, but maybe not as much as last time,” Orbost Post Office manager, Di Shanahan, said.
“We saw an increase in people purchasing printers, shredders and home office stuff where as they are all set up now for home schooling and working at home.”
“Monday is flat out and the rest of the days are all steady to busy. Some days we cant even get all our work done,” staff member Wendy Ditton said.
In store there is an increase in locals sending parcels to loved ones who they may have visited before restrictions intervened.
When asking local business operators about mask wearing and compliance last week the vast majority of people are doing the right thing with the odd ‘oh whoops, I need to run back to the car to grab it’ moment.
“People need to leave them on when they come in store,” Wendy said.
“We’ve had a few this week that think its okay to run in without them, but it’s not.”
Having battled through stage three lockdown the first time, Orbost Club made the decision to shut its doors, however if the community provides feedback that it is in need of its services, staff will hold a review at the three-week mark.
Manager, Stef Coote, who has only been in the role this year, has now battled through one of the most challenging economic times in history, coming off the back of the region’s summer bushfires and now coronavirus.
“We pretty much made the decision to close because it was slow going last time,” Stef said.
“Last time we chose to do takeaway for a few nights a week and one week would be really good and the next would be really quiet.”
Being the only licensed venue in town to hold poker machines, a large portion of the Orbost Club’s revenue comes from the machines and not being allowed to operate them has been challenging.
“Most of our clientele is the elderly and I think that they are frightened to be out and about and I really don’t think that the money is out there at the moment for people to be purchasing takeaway,” Stef said.
“I think people are watching their pennies because they just don’t know when the country will start to reopen again.
“While the support last time was very much appreciated it has been particularly hard on our 17 employees. I was trying to do the right thing by giving some shifts to each of them, especially because only some of them were eligible for JobKeeper.
“Personally, I think that the restrictions should have been looked at as a postcode-by-postcode basis, we have only had one scare here and that was a Melbournian who brought it here which eventuated to nothing.
“If that was the case then I’d imagine that we could open to at least 20 people and last time when we could have restricted numbers for sit in, we found that our Friday nights were popular again because they could come have a meal, sit for two hours and have a chat to their friends. It felt somewhat normal.
“We will get there though and we will reopen and see everyone on the other side of this.”