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While hospitality has been one of the sectors massively affected by the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown, Dunedin businesswoman Sarah Hussey remains positive.
Mrs Hussey and her husband Patrick own three central city businesses: The Swan taproom and eatery in Bath St, and The Perc Central and The Perc Exchange cafes.
Yesterday afternoon, after a final clean-up, packing perishable goods away and delivering some “care parcels”, she was feeling optimistic.
“I saw this coming. This had to be the only way,” she said, referring to the lockdown. The anxiety, for her, previously had been about not knowing how quickly it was coming.
Her cafes had been open and they were quiet as people started to isolate themselves and so the businesses had been “haemorrhaging”.
Usually a stoic, positive person, Mrs Hussey broke down on Saturday as she was doing staff rosters for the week ahead — before the announcement of the lockdown was made — and “shredding” hours. Her staff were such a close unit that it was very upsetting, she said.
She had applied for the wage subsidy and it was very reassuring to get that within 48 hours. The businesses employed about 12 fulltime and eight part-time staff.
There had not been a negative reaction from any of them, as they approached her about ways in which they could all help each other.
As well as a close “family” of staff, there was also a close network of customers, many of whom had discussed their own worries and upsets with her.
“Everyone has got their own stuff going on now. We don’t know what’s going to happen, how long it’s going to go for.”
“For me, we are all united. We’re all in this now. We all have to stop, step back and think about safety first rather than money first. There’s no profit for most people in this any more.”
It was “awful” to see businesses — and not just those in the hospitality sector — having to shut their doors.
Mrs Hussey was grateful to have strong relationships with both landlords and banks and she was “feeling pretty confident” about coming out the other side, despite the uncertainty and “what do we look like on the other side”.
“Let’s just see what happens,” she said.
After the final clean-up yesterday, it was time to “hunker down like everybody else” with her husband and three children.
One heartening aspect was that it might make people a lot more community-minded. People had to think about the “positives” and how they were “doing this for the safety of our children and our grandparents”.