Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay businesses struggling with staff shortages

Stuart Lucca-Pope is president of the Footscray Traders Association and runs Littlefoot bar. (Damjan Janevski) 206671_04

By Molly Magennis

Chronic staff shortages driven by increasing COVID-19 cases are putting a strain on businesses in Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay, particularly those in the hospitality sector.

Small businesses have had it tough the past three years, dealing with repeated lockdowns and staff supply shortages due to a lack of international students and backpackers.

Now these businesses face staff shortages within their own ranks, as the soaring number of COVID cases force thousands of workers into isolation.

Footscray Traders Association president and Littlefoot Bar owner Stuart Lucce-Pope said many businesses are facing uncertainty everyday about how many staff members will be able to show up to work.

“Last week I was running on half the front of house staff that I normally have, so that leaves the staff behind doing, you know, longer shifts and doing the sort of work of 10 men or women,” he said.

Mr Lucce-Pope said he knows of other businesses in the area such as Kindred Studios and Pride of Footscray who are struggling, the latter particularly with the new restrictions on dance floors.

Altona Café Bezirk made an announcement on their Facebook last week saying they would be adapting the way they operate due to current staff shortages, converting their café into a bakery.

“As with so many businesses around Melbourne, staff shortages have impacted the way we would prefer to operate our business,” the post said.

Despite being in a similar position to where they were at the beginning of the pandemic, there is currently no support available for businesses like Bezirk or Littlefoot Bar, because the state is not in an official lockdown.

“Last weekend, we probably did, on Friday and Saturday, 25 to 30 per cent of what we normally do,” Mr Lucce-Pope said.

“So we’re down 70 per cent, which is what, you know, it was a trigger for support in the past.”

While Mr Lucce-Pope said the local community has been fantastic in supporting his bar, the situation he’s in feels like a never ending cycle.

“It’s sort of something different every time, it feels like you’re beaten with a different stick.”