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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

Biz smashed by new COVID-19 regime

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Jay Aarts from Blade Barbers in Byron Bay said he estimated that the shop had experienced a 40 to 50 per cent fall in customers since the new COVID-19 rules came in which, in part, require customes to prove their vaccination status. Photo Jeff ‘Dropping Blades Since 1986’ Dawson

It was proudly trumpeted as ‘Freedom Day’ by the State Government.

But for much of the local business community in the region, October 11 was anything but.

Far from bringing patrons back to pubs, cafes and shopping precincts, the new rules giving greater freedoms exclusively to the double-dose vaccinated have seen revenues plunge across the Northern Rivers.

Many businesses and community organisations have, in fact, elected to close their doors completely, until at least December 1, choosing to bunker down rather than act as policemen for the government’s new regime.

‘You probably couldn’t have done a worse thing to Byron,’ President of the Byron Business Chamber, Mark Ryan, said.

‘We don’t have the high rate of double dose vaccination in our community that they have in somewhere like Sydney, essentially because the vaccine wasn’t available.

‘Now with these new restrictions, we’re basically being punished for our lower vaccination rate.’

Revenue down 70%

With sales for local businesses down by as much as 70 per cent, the Chamber is calling on the State Government to amend the rules, so that locals with one dose under their belts can return to non-essential shops and venues.

The government recently amended the rules so that staff with a single dose could return to work. But without any customers to serve, this has simply resulted in additional staffing costs for business.

‘The current vaccination level in the Byron local government area (LGA) is now over 75 per cent of eligible people having had their single dose’, Mr Ryan said.

According to the COVID-19 data and statistics website in the Tweed LGA 86.1 per cent have had their first vaccination, Ballina LGA is at 93.7 per cent, Lismore is at 88.6 per cent, Kyogle 86.2 per cent, Richmond Valley is at 88.1 per cent and Byron LGA is now at 80.4 per cent first dose vaccination.

‘Without the ability of these vaccinated people to enter the marketplace, it will mean that local businesses will not have customers to serve, and may be forced to close their doors once again’, Mr Ryan said.

In fact, the roller shutters are already going down.

All but two of the region’s community artisan markets have elected to close their doors until December because it is virtually impossible for them, or their stallholders, to effectively police the government’s new restrictions.

This includes the markets in Bangalow, Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads and the Channon.

The organisers of the monthly artisan market in Byron, which supports over 200 local businesses, say they may also be unable to continue running the event.

They’re going to continue running Byron’s weekly Twilight market, and use it as a barometer to see whether the larger event can work or not.

Byron Markets Manager, Kate Hardman, was unequivocal in her assessment of how the new rules were affecting local business.

Backward step

‘This is a backward step for our region and the economic impacts are far reaching,’ Ms Hardman said.

Hundreds of stallholders who rely on the markets for their livelihoods are now facing a very lean six weeks and an anxious wait to see whether they will be able to continue trading when the current rules change again on December 1.

Few are entitled to government support such as the COVID-19 disaster payment, which was effectively limited to those businesses affected by lockdowns.

‘I’m okay because I can get the pension, but some people are in all sorts of trouble,’ long-term stallholder Mignon Frances said.

‘They’ve got mortgages to pay, with little or no income coming in to pay them,’ said Ms Frances, who is also a member of the stallholder committee.

‘If you take into account all of the lockdowns, and now this, it’s a lot of lost income.’

Meanwhile, local MLC Ben Franklin (Nationals) announced on social media that ‘residents from Greater Sydney will not be able to travel to regional NSW until November 1. ‘To support businesses during this time, JobSaver will be extended to offer support at the 30 per cent of weekly payroll rate’.

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  1. So up until 11 October Byron was cruising along moderately well thanks very much. We could spit sweat all over each other at the Beachy in the mosh pit to the awesome Wolf Mother, get our hair cut by the wonderful friendly crew at Blade, and sit inside enjoying a delicious meal at a cafe or restaurant anywhere of our choosing. Vaxxed or Unvaxxed – who cared… Then in comes the Govt mandated medical apartheid. With all the implied pleasure given to only a few, a ‘VIP’ treatment that only the jabbed can now enjoy. However, what I believe we are now seeing is people choosing NOT to support businesses that are enforcing a segregated and two tiered society. Who wants that..? Only a handful of karens and psychopathic nutjobs. Even most taking the jab don’t want that. Remember shop owners, the only ones enforcing this segregated un-Australian nonsense is you. The NSW police have openly stated they will not be busting people for entering a shop or restaurant without proof. And even if they did, it’s not your responsibility anyway. The fines don’t wash. The court have proved that. So, shops, please put out a sign saying all are welcome. That it is not your responsibility to enforce others medical choices. And it would be a pleasure to take anyones money for services rendered. And your business right now may well flourish. Remember this government tyranny only stops when we say it does. Lets all collectively say – enough!

    • I ate at orient express first time in six years ( my wife died last year so it’s all been shit). Went to the beachy first time in 5 years or so just for a quit drink they said only one jab mate can’t come in..I said ok fck ya..see yer in another five years…
      All you Byron people who have been rabid socialists for what 30 years or more? Be careful what you wish for it could has come true. Well done you..

  2. 16/10/21 Prime Minister Scott Morrison says states will be able to provide “protection” for businesses which are concerned about choosing not to impose a vaccination mandate.

    “The advice I have received is that workplace health and safety regulators in the states can provide a statement of regulation intent that a business that does not mandate is not in breach of workplace health and safety laws,” he said.

    “So, a protection can be provided to businesses through that process that may be concerned that by not putting in a mandatory requirement that they might otherwise be liable for any action that might be brought against them.”

  3. Let’s be clear on who are these people who decide all these crazy rules…it’s largely medical people who weren’t good enough to make it as General Practitioners or Surgeons etc,so they joined a cushy government bureaucracy job,where they look at screens most of the day and largely at data supplied by the pharmaceutical industry! They actually have next to no knowledge about health or people and abuse their position to dictate the lives of millions of people! Stop believing their twisted understanding of “health “,all they do is pushing the pharmaceutical interests on us all,make everyone wear masks,so to instill fear and push this crazy approach where only the vaccines are your savior! This is truly cult- like behavior,where no other beliefs are allowed and heavily censored,it has nothing to do with health,it’s an abhorrent abuse of power and it needs to be exposed and these people need to be removed from any position of influence,they are the real virus,they are nothing but well paid lobbyists who crave that power,absolutely disgusting!

  4. And the reason is the selfish, rude behaviour of the antivax “ freedom fighters” attacking businesses. How about those people draw a breath and think about their attitude and overwhelming rudeness to the owners and employees of these businesses. No justification at all.

  5. People are avoiding down town Byron. The anti vax sentiment has had an effect. With shops telling you from the get go they are shut to support the unvaxed etc etc until December . Plus the vaccinated not feeling safe or welcome they will stay away.
    When you are victimised by attitudes of the minority for wearing a mask or being confronted and called out for being “a conformist” while standing in que just innocently going about your daily lives. It’s easy to understand why people who live here go elsewhere and why others don’t come.
    Nurses have been verbally abused on their break sitting at the beach front just for being recognised as a health worker.
    Generosity of spirit seems to have dried up in Byron Bay. It is not OK.

    When locals and visitors feel welcome and safe they will come back.

  6. There is another way of looking at this question. It’s one thing to be magnanimously tolerant of a personal choice not to vaccinate – thus allowing the non vaccinated the same access to freedoms that, with the Delta variant loose, would just not be possible without an otherwise broad uptake.

    It’s another thing to think about the safety of your staff and customers, particularly your staff. After Nov 1, Sydneysiders will be travelling to the regions (officially that is) but to protect the regions there is a provision that until Dec 1 these visitors will need to be double vaxxed. It would be nice to think that local businesses would play their part in this process to protect both their staff and the vulnerable in our community.

    The double vax requirements seem to be working quite smoothly in Ballina. It seems that rudeness, abuse and an extreme sense of entitlement are more apparent in the peace love and rainbows shire.
    ☮️ 🕊 🌈


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