Businesses along the southern New South Wales border say they feel as though they are still in lockdown, as customers unwilling to show proof of a COVID vaccination stay away in droves.
- Businesses must ask for customers vaccination status before service
- Some staff have received abuse from unvaccinated customers
- NSW border businesses have lost customers to Victoria
Albury Business Connect chairman Barry Young said the latest changes that required the vaccination status of customers to be checked was more restrictive than before.
“For those LGAs (local government areas) that have been in lockdown, like Sydney, it’s a step forward whereas businesses here see it as a step backward,” he said.
Last week border bubble residents could go to restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms and beauty appointments, regardless of their vaccination status.
But on Monday the new public health order came into effect which now only allowed fully vaccinated residents those freedoms.
“It becomes a difficult situation,” he said.
“Just the awkwardness of having to check people as they enter the premises is creating a demand on staff that’s not great.”
Mr Young said staff had encountered abuse from people when being told they could not enter.
Loss of market
The streets in Albury are noticeably quieter and there has been a decline in business.
Mr Young said even fully vaccinated residents were traveling across the border into Victoria to save themselves “the hassle”.
“That’s some of the feedback we have received and it’s quite evident last week in the lead up to the change.”
“People were saying that they will probably change their shopping habits.”
He said it was restricting the market and hurting businesses that had suffered through border closures and other restrictions.
“We were only just able to welcome back visitors out of North East Victoria.”
“Now effectively we’re at a position where we can only cater to 60 per cent of our market based on vaccination rates in the Albury LGA,” he said.
Owner of local Cafe As Thick As Thieves Sam Kadi said he had already noticed the decline in business.
“We’ve been so quiet that we haven’t had to turn anyone away,” he said.
“This just feels like another lockdown.”
Rhys Mildren who owns a local gym, Revamp Fitness, agreed.
“It does feel like we’re in another lockdown. There’s not as many people in restaurants, cafes or shopping centres,” he said.
Extra layer of stress
Most of Mr Mildren’s clients were fully vaccinated and had been understanding but he said it was still an uncomfortable position for businesses to be put in.
“It is a tough conversation. It’s something that’s sparked a lot of debate but we’ve kept rolling with the punches.”
Mr Mildren has been developing programs for his clients who are not fully vaccinated so they can still train from home.
“We’ve come up with a system so they can still train … kind of like what they did when we were in lockdowns.”
If businesses do not comply with the health order they can cop a $5000 fine which Mr Young says is creating an additional layer of stress.
“With what businesses have been through already [along the border] they certainly can’t afford a $5000 fine,” he said.
He suggested the government look at the LGA’s individually when it came to the easing of restrictions, as was the case for lockdown.
“It would be helpful rather than a blanket approach to this vaccination requirement,” he said.