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The Canberra businesses at a standstill

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Canberra’s small business owners are hanging by a thread as the Federal Government confirmed lifting lockdown restrictions are still many weeks away.

While most café and restaurant industries have been able to adjust their business models to attract some revenue via takeaway and delivery options, the wedding, photography and beauty industries have been at a standstill since stage two restrictions were announced last month, banning weddings over five people and effectively shutting the doors of the beauty industry.

Photographer Amanda Thorson, who runs Ainslie’s Thorson Photography with her husband, says the couple lost almost 100 per cent of their income in the space of two weeks.

“Just two wedding shoot cancellations has meant $8-10,000 lost in revenue,” says Amanda.

“It’s not just your income, it’s your hopes and dreams, all these things you’ve made for yourself get pulled from under you in a matter of weeks, when you’ve still got two young kids to take care of.”

Amanda Thorson. Credit: Thorson Photography.

“It’s so hard when things are out of your control and there is pretty much nothing we can do for a revenue stream until some of the restrictions are relaxed.

“Some people have said ‘Oh what a shame you can’t take your photos’ like it’s a hobby. But this is our livelihood; what puts food on the table for our two kids.”

Co-owner of beauty studio The Lab Sianne Fitzsimons says closing their doors last month was “earth-shattering.”

“This business is everything to us, it’s literally blood sweat and tears in the last five years—to have us shut down is earth-shattering, horrendous, indescribable. But at the same time, we had to make peace with it, for the health of our staff and clients.”

A treatment at The Lab. Credit: Bel Combridge Photography.

The Lab would usually see up to 200 clients in the four days they are open per week.

The Federal Government’s recent Jobkeeper announcement will help pay Sianne’s staff, who originally had to be stood down, however, one of her staff members is on a visa and will not be eligible.

“She has a one-year-old and a husband who recently got made redundant, so we are doing all we can to help her,” says Sianne.

She adds that she is “being realistic” about how long it might be before they can open their doors again.

“It’s a little different in the beauty industry, we are face to face, the 1.5 metre rule can’t apply,” says Sianne.

“We are not anticipating opening any time soon to be honest. Yes we are in a lot of trouble, but for us to think someone can come into the studio and infect us, potentially killing someone, outweighs that.”

And while most clients have done their part in following the rules, others haven’t been so compliant.

Owner of lash extension studio Battle Lashes Alex Hankin says some customers have been asking if they can have “at home treatments” or “just meet somewhere for a cash payment.”

“We all need to be following the rules, and the fact that some clients have been asking this is just not on,” says Alex.

“Yes it sucks that we have had to close our doors, it’s heartbreaking, I’m a single parent and I’ve lost my livelihood—but we have to do our part to stop the spread.”

Amanda also says she has been approached by brides and grooms-to-be hoping to bypass the ‘five person’ rule for weddings.

“I’ve had couples asking if we can just hide behind a tree, but obviously we’re not going to do that,” she says.

“Then we’ve had other people who have been lovely enough to say ‘I want to pay you for a shoot now that I can use later.’ So although this has brought so much darkness, there’s some light too.”

Feature image: Bel Combridge Photography

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