TURNED AWAY AT THE GATE: Caravanners have been sent away, leaving local businesses to struggle. Picture: Sean McGowan
TURNED AWAY AT THE GATE: Caravanners have been sent away, leaving local businesses to struggle. Picture: Sean McGowan

Coronavirus closures cost Southern Downs jobs, livelihoods

ACCOMMODATION provider, Ray Vincent, is absolutely gobsmacked by the relentless misfortune his Southern Downs business is forced to endure.

From drought, to fires, to highway closures, the last six months were brutal for the Bestbrook Mountain Resort, with losses stretching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Summer rain brought reprieve, but it was short-lived.

"We had one month of good trading. The paddocks were green, and the horses were fat," Mr Vincent said.

"We finally thought things were turning around.

"Then it was all ripped away."

On Friday night Mr Vincent received an email from the Queensland Government, informing him the resort would have to cease trading "immediately" until May 19 in order to adhere to new coronavirus restrictions.

The home-confinement order prohibits all non-essential domestic travel and requires accommodation providers to cancel all bookings while it is in place.

The father-of-seven was shocked.

"How could anyone have predicted this?" he said.

"This is the worst year of my life.

"I don't think we're going to get through this."

The chain was dragged across the gate, travelling caravanners were turned around, and all 15 of Mr Vincent's local employees were stood down.

"I had a tear in my eye as I told them," he said.

"Some of these people have worked for me for more than 12 years, but when there's not a soul in sight and I'm not making any money, I just can't afford to pay them.

"It's a terrible, terrible thing at my age in life to tell my staff and my friends there isn't any money there."

The adjoining cafe continues to trade, offering takeaway and deliveries to nearby Maryvale, but Mr Vincent said it wasn't sustainable.

"75 per cent of my trade for the year happens at Easter and that's just ripped $200,000 out the front gate," he said.

"I've got seven children, I have a lot of mouths to feed.

"The business should be eligible for assistance."

The federal JobKeeper scheme, which offers employers wage subsidies of up to $1500 a fortnight, won't provide the money upfront for Bestbrook Mountain Resort.

"They promise us the world and give us an atlas," Mr Vincent said.

"They tell me I have to pay (the wages) upfront and they'll give it to me later, but if there's no money coming in I can't manage that.

"My next step is to go further into debt."

Nevertheless, Mr Vincent vows to push on in hopes of a brighter future.

"You have to just put on a smiley face and keep trading and hope it comes good," he said.

"You have to do what (the government) is asking because you can't spread this bloody thing.

"The last thing you want is for your children, your friends, or your staff to get it."



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