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Distress call from new business owners

I had not long finished a coffee meeting with Manly MP James Griffin today, wherein we discussed the state of local businesses and the support they need, when I received a rather random and unusual call that encapsulated the pain of the situation perfectly.

A nervous voice asked to speak with the Manly Observer, she was Jason’s partner she explained. I don’t know anyone called Jason. (I do now, pictured!)

Then I heard gentle sobbing. I asked her name, it was Artika, and she needed my help. See, Artika and Jason had recently moved from Queensland and had bought a thriving and successful cafe, Balgowlah Social, a hip little joint on Sydney Road just before you reach the intersection with Condamine Street, in early December.

They opened their doors just as the Northern Beaches big wave of Covid hit, which forced them to close almost as soon as they had opened. Most of their staff were in the northern zone, she explained. It was too hard to operate and so they have only reopened recently. But the customers aren’t coming back, she said, clearly distressed.

“We don’t understand, we haven’t changed anything. The menu, the coffee, it’s the same. My husband is working 14 hours a day seven days a week to try and get through. He is trying so hard but even regulars seem to be walking by. What have we done wrong?”

So here is your calling, Balgowlah friends (or people from anywhere really!) Drop by and follow @balgowlahsocial and give their menu a try (by coincidence we did that just last week-delish!).

If you’re a former regular, please pay a return visit and give the new team a go. Or if you have stopped going because something has changed that you don’t like, please have a quiet word in DMs or in person so they have feedback to work with.

Small business relief measures announced next week 

Balgowlah Social won’t be the only previously-thriving business limping into 2021, but they represent a lot of us. And they also appear to be victims of very very unlucky timing.

And on the matter of timing, the Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont is expected to complete his report into providing relief to lockdown-impacted beaches businesses on Wednesday.

Call business commissioner Chris Lamont

“There’s a lot of eyes on this,” James Griffin told me as we grabbed our first face to face coffee, at Market Lane Cafe, this morning. “We should expect some kind of announcement by around Australia Day.”

What that relief will look like we won’t know til Wednesday. Griffin is leaning towards a decent cash injection like the one offered when COVID-19 first hit NSW, which can then go toward rent relief or kickstarting marketing again.

“I think there is a moral obligation for us (the government) to help,” he said.

But considering the package offered to Beaches businesses will form a blueprint for the rest of the state, the government may be wary of offering more than they could afford should it need to be replicated over the coming year or years.

Direct help is available for struggling businesses in NSW, visit My Business. 
Balgowlah Social is at 357 Sydney Rd, Balgowlah NSW 2093.

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