Small business owners being “destroyed’ during lockdown
5th June 2021

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Melbourne’s small business owners say they’re being destroyed by the current coronavirus lockdown in the city, losing thousands of dollars of revenue.

The group of aggrieved business owners took to the streets in the Melbourne CBD on Saturday morning, before two dozen anti-lockdown protesters hijacked the demonstration outside Flinders Street Station, resulting in two arrests and 16 fines.

Small business owners Bill Panayotou, Emily and Carly Soderstrom outside Flinders Street Station. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Bill Panayotou, who manages The Alibi Events and the Middleman Cafe, became visibly upset after discussing the difficulties his business is facing in the wake of Victoria’s two-week lockdown.

After purchasing a new venue in March 2020 just before the pandemic hit, he has since accrued more than $120,000 in interest from his frozen loans.

Finally on the road to recovery this year – with one of Mr Panayotou’s venues turning a profit for the first time just two weeks ago, he says he’s again been “destroyed” by the lockdown.

“There’s no one out there giving us a voice right now, so it was a spur of the moment idea to get out and try to share my story,” he said.

Small business owner Bill Panayotou is comforted after he became emotional talking about his business woes during lockdown outside Flinders Street Station.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“I got a sense from other small business owners that they’re too scared to speak up, they don’t want to be seen as greedy or lumped in with people who are anti-vaccine, which we’re not.

“I’ve got no faith in the state or federal governments, they’re just hopeless and the only people that suffer is not them, it’s us.”

Regional Victorian photographer Carly Soderstrom said she had to turn down a $7000 opportunity at Australian Fashion Week because of the latest lockdown. She’s now got just $400 in her bank account.

“Lockdown didn’t just meant lost income, I lost the opportunity to have my work seen by people who might hire me, you just lose momentum,” Ms Soderstrom said on Saturday.

“People tell me it’s just seven or 14 days of lockdown, but there’s no guarantee that income will still be here for me after it’s over.

“It’s been 15 months of this, and the dark cloud of anxiety is brutalising and punishing.”

At Saturday’s anti-lockdown protests, a 48-year-old from Caroline Springs was arrested and charged with three counts of resisting arrest and two counts of breaking the Chief Health Officer’s directions. He was bailed to the Melbourne Magistrates Court on October 28.

Anti-vaccine protesters are arrested outside Flinders Street Station after hijacking a demonstration of small business owners on Saturday morning. Credit:Chris Hopkins

A 33-year-old Mernda man was arrested and may be summonsed to appear at court at a later date pending inquiries by police.

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